O'HARA: James hoping to further develop his talent in Detroit

When Jesse James began shopping his services in the NFL’s free-agent market he was looking for a higher ceiling to develop his talent and lower volume from the drama he experienced at the end of his four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Detroit Lions offered enough of both for James to sign a four-year contract. Opportunity on the playing field obviously was the major factor.

“I’ve had some success in Pittsburgh,” James said at his Thursday press conference. “I feel like things could have been better. Offensively, I wasn’t used the way I feel I could be used here. I feel like my ceiling here is going to be much higher than it was in the past.

“I think coach Bevell (new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) does a great job of using his personnel the best way they can be.

“I’m just looking forward to the process.”

View photos of Detroit Lions tight end Jesse James.

The way James performed as a rotational tight end for the Steelers should allow him to take on an expanded role in the Lions’ offense and bolster a position that was a major void in the offense in 2018.

James had 120 catches for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns in four years with the Steelers. However, 112 of those catches came in the last three seasons.

James was only 20 when he was drafted in the fifth round out of Penn State. James was inactive for the first eight games, and he played sparingly in the final eight. He played all 48 regular-season games the last three years, dividing time with Vance McDonald.

James had reception totals of 39, 43 and 30 his last three years in Pittsburgh. It’s likely he’ll get more work with the Lions because of the lack of production and depth at the position. Michael Roberts, a fourth-round draft pick in 2017, has 13 catches in two seasons and has not showed consistency. Roberts is the only tight end on the current roster who has caught a pass in a regular-season game.

James made it clear that he was not complaining about the way he was used in Pittsburgh. His opportunities were limited by the way the offense was designed, and by having the veteran McDonald ahead of him on the tight end depth chart.

“I wouldn’t say misused or not used,” said. “I feel like coming here, I’m going to be a key part of this offense. In Pittsburgh, I was a key part. Here, my role could be greater. I can do more things. My game has grown every year. I know from what I was last year, I’m going to be a better player next year.”

He’s looking forward to catching passes from Matthew Stafford, who James praised for his ability and toughness.

“He’s a great quarterback and competitor,” James said. “Go from there. I think we have the quarterback. A franchise quarterback. Stafford’s an unbelievable competitor. He fought some things – injuries in the past.

“I have a ton of respect for him. We’re willing to put it all on the line for the team. I’ve seen that over and over.

“I’m not here for any fantasy points or anything like that. I’m here to win football games.”

Late last season James said “we are Kardashians” in reference to the drama involving Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

He didn’t like it, but it didn’t affect his performance, James said Thursday.

“I‘m glad to get away from it,” he said. “I kind of can block it out and focus on my job.”

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