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Camp Spotlight: Tight end Luke Willson


Position: Tight end

Ht/Wt: 6-5, 251

College: Rice

Experience: Sixth season

View photos of tight end Luke Willson from Day 8 of 2018 Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage.

Outlook: Willson was signed as a free agent this offseason to compete with Michael Roberts and fellow free-agent signee Levine Toilolo for playing time at tight end.

The Lions moved on from Eric Ebron this offseason for financial reasons, and that means Willson, Roberts, Toilolo and others have an opportunity to step up and take over the workload in the passing game Ebron had last season.

Willson's best season came in 2014, his second in the league, when he got an opportunity to start 10 games in Seattle. He caught 22 passes for 362 yards (16.5 average) and three scores that season. He then became Jimmy Graham's backup from 2015-17, and didn't see as many opportunities in the passing game.

He's come to Detroit with a bit of a chip on his shoulder from that experience, and is looking to prove he can be a No. 1-type tight end in this league.

Willson is a plus-blocker in the run game, an emphasis for the Lions heading into 2018, and is trying to prove he can also have a big role in the passing game.

Practice report: The Lions took part in a controlled scrimmage Saturday that worked in a lot of game situations. The teams were divided by white and blue jerseys, and Willson ran with the first-team offense in white.

The first pass that went Wilson's way was a deep ball down the left side that Matthew Stafford put a little bit too much air on, sailing it just beyond Willson's outstretched arms.

Stafford went back to Willson two plays later, but the two couldn't connect on a short crossing route. Stafford threw the ball a little low, and a diving Willson couldn't hang on to it. Willson would probably be the first person to say he should have caught it.

Backup quarterback Matt Cassel tried to hook up with Willson later in the scrimmage down the right seam, but safety Tavon Wilson had good coverage on the play and was able to break the pass up. Willson thought the other Wilson contacted him a little early, and was looking for a flag after the ball hit the ground, but he didn't get one from the officials.

Willson finally got into the action late in the scrimmage on a 12-yard pass and catch from backup quarterback Jake Rudock that helped set up a 55-yard field goal try that was eventually missed by kicker Ryan Santoso.

Quotable: "I'd say we're hungry and we're all just ready to compete," Willson said. "There are things you can't control. I can't control what plays are meant for me when I'm in. What I can control is that when I'm out there I do the best I can. 

"If it's a run play, if it's a 7-on-7 up in the end zone, I try to make the plays when they come my way and let all the decisions and what roles (guys will play) go to the guys who make those decisions."

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