Lions fullback Jed Collins will play in a system similar to what he learned in New Orleans. (Cindy Ord / Getty Images)
Allen Park — Here’s a little window into the mentality of a fullback.
Jed Collins, the Lions’ first true fullback since Jerome Felton left after the 2010 season, was asked about building on-field chemistry with running back Reggie Bush.
“Reggie’s an athlete; I’ve been adopted by the offensive line here,” Collins said. “I’m a mini O-lineman. The backs are going to read me like they read the pulling guard. They are going to read me like they read Dominic (Raiola, center) leading up on a ‘backer.
“People try to make it a lot different but really, I’m a small offensive lineman.”
“Small” is a relative term in this case. Collins is a sturdy 5-foot-10 and 255 pounds. He comes to the Lions from New Orleans, where he played in essentially the same system new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is installing in Detroit.
“It’s been very nice being comfortable in the system, bringing it up here from New Orleans,” Collins said. “My role is going to be much the same. Be a physical help in the run game and in the passing game be solid in protection. And then be an energetic, positive contributor when I am not on the field.”
It’s fair to ask, though, how and how often the Lions will deploy a fullback. They signed receiver Golden Tate to play opposite Calvin Johnson. They drafted a pass-catching tight end, Eric Ebron, with the 10th overall pick, presumably to play a hybrid slot-tight end position alongside Brandon Pettigrew.
If you do the math, two backs, two tight ends and two receivers doesn’t compute in an 11-man offense that also features a quarterback and five linemen.
“It’s going to be a transition for them, for everybody, to start hearing that 21 personnel group,” Collins said, referencing a two-back, one-tight end (21) package. “There is a role for it. There is a reason for it, and I think it’s going to help.”
The Saints had similar offensive weaponry as the Lions — two tight ends, a stable of quality running backs and receivers. Collins was on the field for 411 snaps with the Saints last season, nearly 25 plays a game. He carried the ball 14 times and caught 14 passes.
Most of Collins’ work came on first and second down, and in short-yardage situations. The key to him staying on the field is helping the Lions to keep the chains moving.
“Yeah, the two-minute drills I won’t be a part of,” he said, laughing. “But this game is becoming clock management and when you have great defenses, you have to be able to stay on the field.”
Collins said he could be used in multiple personnel groupings — one back, two back, one tight end and two tight end. For the most part, though, his role is to do a lot of the dirty work — open holes for the running backs and keep pass rushers off quarterback Matthew Stafford.
And that he so ardently relishes that role, it’s no wonder the offensive linemen have adopted him as one of their own.