July 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Lions rookie tight end Eric Ebron expects to line up in more than just slot

Lions rookie tight end Eric Ebron said he expects to line up in the slot, in-line and even in the backfield next season. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Based on the rest of the Lions’ roster, it’s safe to assume rookie tight end Eric Ebron will line up most in the slot as the No. 3 receiver.

But in a recent interview on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast, the first-round pick said he expects to start many plays in-line and also will line up in the backfield in 2014.

On the podcast released Monday, Ebron said he expects to be in the slot for 50 percent of plays, in-line 40 percent and in the backfield 10 percent.

“I’m going to block some people,” he said. “Coach keeps telling me, ‘Look here, we’re receiving tight ends, but we’re going to be good at everything.’ He was like, ‘We’re going to block some people.’

“I was like, ‘Coach, I ain’t got no problem with it. I’ll tear somebody’s head off, but if I get my head torn off, I’m coming back to you because you put me in that situation.’ ”

When asked how often he’d line up as a receiver, Ebron said, “50, 30, 15, 5,” and the 15 percent is likely the out-wide portion.

One of the biggest criticisms of Ebron’s play at North Carolina was his blocking, but he didn’t have much of a chance to showcase that part of his game in Larry Fedora’s spread offense his last two years with the Tar Heels.

When Ebron was recruited to North Carolina, then-coach Butch Davis envisioned him playing a pro-style tight end role and blocking as well as receiving.

Ebron said on the podcast that Lions tight ends coach Ron Prince has helped him refine his blocking technique since he arrived in Detroit. He also told Tucker that learning the playbook has been the toughest adjustment so far, something he said repeatedly during organized team activities and minicamp.

“My biggest adjustment is just mentally trying to adapt to the tight end position,” he said. “Now in the NFL, it’s so many little things that you have to pay attention to. It’s really hard for a tight end because we have to worry about blocking schemes, route running, catching the ball, defenses — the whole nine. It’s sort of like a quarterback and the mental mindset.”

During the offseason program, Ebron said he’s spent 30 to 45 minutes before every practice going over the play script with a quarterback and walking through his assignments.

“I’ve been everywhere,” he said. “That’s what’s killing me.”

On the podcast, Ebron also discussed the Lions offensive arsenal, his first interactions with Calvin Johnson and the calm offensive staff.

“I haven’t heard one offensive coach raise their voice,” he said. “It’s always the defensive coaches.”

Ebron told a story of coach Jim Caldwell pointing out to him that NFL players run to the ball after every play, and Ebron said he doesn’t have to hear that message again.

Listen to the podcast here.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com
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