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Tight end competition already heating up

During Thursday's open OTA in Allen Park, Lions second-year tight end Michael Roberts made a terrific leaping catch in the end zone during a team drill for a touchdown.

Earlier, veteran tight end Luke Willson put a great move on a defender in a two-on-two drill, and made a diving catch in the corner of the end zone for a score.

Overall, Detroit's collection of tight ends had a pretty good afternoon catching the football and making plays.

After the release of Eric Ebron this offseason – the Lions' leading pass catcher at the position the last four years – Detroit enters the OTA portion of their offseason training program with no established No. 1 guy at the position.

That provides a terrific opportunity for Roberts, Willson, veteran Levine Toilolo and others to potentially step up into that role based on performance.

"You know, I think we've got a lot of talented guys in that room, honestly," quarterback Matthew Stafford said.  "I think it's going to be a fun spring and into summer to see kind of how that shakes out. They're all working extremely hard. You know, really all of them learning a system that's still somewhat new to them."

Roberts, in his second season with the team after being drafted in the fourth round of last year's draft, is most familiar with the system. He played in 15 games as a rookie, and caught four passes for 46 yards. He was also quite good as a blocker in the run game.

Willson came over in free agency after spending his first five seasons in Seattle. The athletic tight end caught 15 passes for 153 yards and four touchdowns last season. He has 89 receptions for 1,129 yards and 11 scores over his career.

"You know, a lot of us have a chip on our shoulder and it makes the room competitive," Willson said after Thursday's practice. "Guys are really pushing each other to be better and making each other better. Everyone is competing, so it makes for a great vibe that way."

View the best photos of the offense on the field during Week 1 of Detroit Lions 2018 OTA practices.

Like Willson, Toilolo signed with Detroit in free agency after spending his first five seasons with the Falcons. He caught 12 passes with a touchdown last season, and has 74 career receptions with seven scores.

Hakeem Valles and Marcus Lucas are also looking to impress coaches at the position and find themselves a roster spot.

Will the Lions use a rotation at tight end based on the strengths of each player? Will someone emerge as a go-to guy at the position? There are lots of question marks and opportunities at the position, and all involved seem to be looking forward to how the competition plays out.

"It's a fun (tight end) room," Roberts said. "Now, it's making plays each play. Every time the ball is in the air my eyes get big. It's just about making plays. That's what we're all here for."

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