Skip to main content

O'HARA: Roberts looking for an edge to separate himself

Michael Roberts has adjusted his training camp sleep schedule to better prepare himself for the rigors of the Detroit Lions' practices.

The rookie tight end is getting up earlier, not later, to get a jump start on his personal cram course of watching video and studying that's in addition to what he does with coaches and teammates.

It's Roberts' way of trying to get an edge.

"You're going to watch all the film here with your coaches," Roberts told a group of reporters this week. "We have early mornings, late nights. It's that extra you do. It's what you do to separate yourself.

"Before, when I first got here, I was waking up an hour before and doing everything. Now, I've got to tick it up a notch.

"Now I wake up at six and get here an hour and a half before and try to go over my routine and study – just go over the scripts and learn. Like I said, watch the film and get better. If I do something wrong, fix it. That's on me, to get better."

It's also on Roberts to take that information to the practice and playing fields. On the first day of padded practice this week, Roberts did not give himself a high grade for how he performed. Brandon Copeland got the better of him in a one-on-one matchup.

"I only got one rep over there, but it wasn't a great rep," Roberts said. "Now I get to watch that and see what I did wrong. Now I'm excited to come out and do it again and better myself."

It was a learning experience, and Roberts felt he learned from his first live practice as a pro.

"Now I know how it is to practice with full pads on," Roberts said. "I know the physicality – get that technique again, get the pads low, footwork, coming off the line.

"This is a very technical game. It's getting all that together and continuing to perfect my craft."

General manager Bob Quinn has made significant moves to add talent and versatile depth to the tight end position. Here is how the position stacks up in training camp, with seven tight ends on the roster:

Returning: Eric Ebron, Cole Wick, Khari Lee.

Ebron, a 2014 first-round draft pick, is the only one in the group who has shown he can be a difference-maker as a receiver. He has trended upward as a receiver, with a career-high 61 catches in 2016, but lack of consistency is still an issue until proven otherwise.

Wick made the roster last year as an undrafted free agent but went out early with a season-ending injury. He is noticeably bigger – but not necessarily heavier – from a full year of weight training. Lee started seven games for the Bears in 2015, with one reception, and was active for eight games with the Lions last year without making a catch.

Veteran free agent: Darren Fells, signed in March as a blocking specialist after three seasons with the Cardinals, has shown potential in the first week of camp that he can be a contributing receiver.

Rookies: Roberts and two undrafted rookies – Brandon Barnes of Alabama State, and Robert Tonyan of Indiana State.

Roberts can add production to the tight end rotation if he brings to the Lions what he showed as a senior at Toledo that made him a fourth-round draft pick. Roberts set career highs with 45 receptions, 16 of them going for touchdowns.

Although not exceptional fast afoot, Roberts had a knack in college for finding open areas to use his 11-inch hands to be a scoring threat in the red zone.

"I think he's a big, physical guy – a little different than Ebron, obviously," head coach Jim Caldwell said. "But he's big and strong and can run, and he's getting better. He's got a ways to go.

"He's got the right attitude, but he's got a tough job. But I think he's going to develop into a good player, if he keeps working at it."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content