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Allen Park — The Lions have had minimal production from their rookie class the first three games, but coach Jim Caldwell said he's not discouraged.

"Discouraged is never a word that you're ever going to hear come out of my mouth or ever be associated with me as well because of the fact that I never get discouraged," Caldwell said. "I always look at the bright side of things and try to make certain that I always display that."

Draft classes shouldn't be judged until three years in, but to this point, the Lions haven't had nearly as much help from their rookies as they did in 2013.

With 69 offensive snaps the first three games, tight end Eric Ebron, the first-round pick, has played the most. He has three catches for 38 yards on eight targets, but some people in the organization think he should be playing more. The coaches have tried to prevent giving Ebron too large a role at the start of the season because of the complex nature of his position.

Injuries have played a key role in the lack of rookie production. Fourth-round cornerback Nevin Lawson played 61 defensive snaps the first two games before dislocating his toes in the second half in Week 2.

In addition to Lawson, the Lions lost second-round linebacker Kyle Van Noy (core muscle) to short-term injured reserve, and he can't play until at least Week 10. Sixth-round receiver TJ Jones (shoulder) is on the physically unable to perform list, so he'll miss at least three more games.

Perhaps the biggest downfall of the class was seventh-round kicker Nate Freese, whom the Lions cut Monday after he started 3-for-7 on field goals.

Behind Ebron and Lawson, undrafted rookie Cornelius Lucas has played 57 snaps at right tackle, fifth-round defensive tackle Caraun Reid has played 11 snaps, undrafted safety Jerome Couplin has played nine snaps and undrafted cornerback Mohammed Seisay played his first 10 snaps Sunday.

"It's a growth process," Caldwell said. "This is not an easy league. This is the top of the food chain, and it's an expertise. To expect a guy to come in from college and set this league on fire, it's not going to happen. It's not going to happen. It takes time for those guys to develop. So, no I'm not disappointed in that, I understand the realities of it."

Third-round pick Travis Swanson has played some special teams and is the top backup at center and guard. Ebron, Couplin and Seisay have played a fair amount on special teams, too.

Fourth-round defensive end Larry Webster has yet to play and is the sixth option at his position.

"We've got a lot of veteran players on this team that do a tremendous job," Caldwell said. "But I do think you see some young guys that step in play and do well."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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