Detroit — The Lions threw many of their draft picks into the fire during Saturday’s 13-12 exhibition victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Tight end Eric Ebron and linebacker Kyle Van Noy both earned significant playing time, and even though neither contributed much on the stat sheet, they showed glimpses of what the future could hold.
“We wanted to get both of those guys a lot of snaps,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Obviously, not having played in the league, they’re young, so we have to get them as many as we can. Ebron’ situation, he was a little banged up early in the week, and he got a little healthier so we were able to stick him in the ballgame and go.
“I’m glad he got healthy where he can get some work because he needs it.”
Ebron had just one catch for 2 yards on four targets, but it was an impressive catch that he extended for on an off-target throw by Dan Orlovsky.
“It felt great, to be able to get it over with (your first catch) to be able to jump in the pool and get everything done was great,” Ebron said.
The first-round pick probably should’ve had another catch, but he let a ball go into his body and the patience allowed a defender to break it up.
Regardless of the contributions, the Lions showed a bit of the versatility Ebron provides in the offense with him lining up out wide, in-line and in the backfield.
Van Noy’s only statistical contribution was a pass defensed, but he was close to having a few big plays. The pass break-up was nearly a forced fumble, but Browns fullback MarQueis Gray was bobbling the ball as Van Noy knocked it free.
Van Noy, the Lions’ second-round pick, also had a near sack of Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, but he dove too soon and allowed Manziel to run for a first down.
As with Ebron, the Lions provided a glimpse of how Van Noy could change the defense. He lined up at the line of scrimmage on some plays and was also in with a four-linebacker package.
Veteran Ashlee Palmer started at outside linebacker, but Van Noy has a chance to win that competition in camp.
“That’s not my decision,” Van Noy said. “My job is just to go out there and show that I can play, and that’s up to the coaches.”
Running back George Winn spent time with five NFL teams as an undrafted rookie, but if the Southfield native keeps playing at this level, he could find a home in Detroit, even if it’s on the practice squad.
Winn ran for 39 yards and six carries and added three catches for 23 yards. He also flashed some of the power-running style he’s shown thus far in training camp.
The only blunder for Winn was a lost fumble early in the fourth quarter, but that didn’t stop Caldwell from mentioning him as someone who impressed after the game.
“Any time you have a turnover, it is something of concern, but I think he played hard and played well,” Caldwell said.
Reggie Bush said the other running backs were excited to see Winn before the game.
“I don’t think any of the running backs were surprised at what he did today,” Bush said. “We all expected him to do that.”
Second-year receiver Corey Fuller had only one target, but he turned it into a 21-yard, game-winning touchdown after gaining separation on a go route.
“I think it helps me a lot,” he said of making the game-winning catch. “But the same thing I said since Day 1, I just want to keep on building on it.”
The speedy Fuller has looked much better in camp this year and could earn one of the final receiver spots on the roster.
“The quarterbacks have loved throwing to Corey, and obviously he’s done a tremendous job, developed a lot and he was one-one, which we like,” said Kellen Moore, who made the pass to Fuller.
Many of the offensive starters played just seven plays after getting a field goal on the first drive.
Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola were all done for the night after just one series.
“If it had been a three-and-out,it would’ve been a little different story,” Caldwell said. “We would’ve put them back in.”
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson sat out because of “prudence,” Caldwell said.
... Running back Theo Riddick left the game in the first half after suffering an abdominal injury.
... Linebacker Tahir Whitehead appeared to go through the concussion protocol during the third quarter, but Caldwell didn’t provide an update.