MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Offense can maximize the roles of all the tight ends

Posted Jun 20, 2014

Brandon Pettigrew headed home after the last minicamp practice with a good feeling about how he and the Lions’ other tight ends fit in the new coaching staff’s offense.

Brandon Pettigrew headed home after the last minicamp practice with a good feeling about most things related to how he and the Lions’ other tight ends fit in the new coaching staff’s offense and about his life in general.

There are a few minor ailments he needs to tend to in the down time before training camp starts at the end of July, but no major physical or mental wounds are lingering from last season.

“You always have little nicks you have to take care of,” Pettigrew said. “Nothing that’s going to keep you off the field.”

With a coaching change and a new offensive system since the end of last season, Pettigrew has a new – and longer – lease on life as a Lion.

Shortly after becoming a free agent in March, Pettigrew signed a four-year contract at a time when reports were circulating that he was close to signing with the Jets after five seasons in Detroit.

Pettigrew likes to keep his personal matters just that – personal  -- and he was good-natured in not wanting to discuss how close he might have come to leaving Detroit.

“Let’s talk camp, man,” he said. “That stuff is over with. I’m here now. We’re here in Detroit, baby.”

Here in Detroit, the Lions’ tight end position has been made over since the end of last season through design and a personnel addition.

Quick take on the position: The offense installed by new head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi should have options to maximize the roles of all the tight ends.

“It’s definitely a little bit different,” Pettigrew said. “We’re moving around a lot more – splitting out a little more, doing a lot of different things. The role is different for everybody.”

Eric EbronTE Eric Ebron (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Depth chart: Barring any unforeseen developments, Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and rookie Eric Ebron will be the three tight ends the Lions carry into the season. Jacob Maxwell and Jordan Thompson are also on the offseason roster. Michael Williams, a seventh-round draft pick last year, has been moved to offensive tackle.

Role playing: Pettigrew is a premier in-line blocker, and he’s been an effective short- to mid-range receiver. Fauria was a red-zone and short-yardage specialist as a rookie. Seven of his 15 receptions were for touchdowns. If Ebron lives up to projections, Matthew Stafford expects him to add a dynamic threat down the field that most offenses lack.

“Ebron is different than Joe and different than Brandon,” Stafford said. “He’s a guy that we haven’t really had at that position. Nothing against the other two guys --  they bring their own skill set. Pettigrew is as big as a house and a great monster target and all that. And Joe is super tall (6-8) with soft hands.

“But Ebron’s a sudden athlete. He’s a guy, you throw him the ball on a flat route and he can turn five yards into 25 – and more. That’s something very few guys in his position in the NFL have.

“He’s a young guy, but he’s very fluid in the way he moves.”

Pettigrew has had two big receiving seasons. Twice he ranked in the top three in the NFL in receptions for a tight end -- 71 catches in 2010 and 83 in 2011. He also has had his share of detractors because of dropped passes and turnovers.

Like the other veterans, Pettigrew was accustomed to the leadership style of former head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, but he has embraced the change.

“It’s new in a great way,” Pettigrew said. ‘I loved everybody that was here before, and I love these guys. These guys are very disciplined guys and great leaders. You follow that.

“Coach Caldwell’s a great guy -- a disciplinary guy. We’re following that. I think it’s going to help us a lot.”