Lions TE Eric Ebron could see role expand

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park – — After averaging 23 snaps in the first three games, Lions rookie Eric Ebron should have a chance to display his potential Sunday against the Jets.

Tight end Joseph Fauria suffered an ankle injury at home Wednesday night that required an MRI on Thursday. And although his status is uncertain, Ebron likely will take over a majority of his snaps.

"The numbers have just changed in terms of the depth at that particular position," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "You can anticipate that he's probably going to see a bit more because he'll take on Joe's role as well in terms of the particular personnel groupings that we'll use."

Ebron has three catches for 38 yards, all of which came in the Week 2 loss to the Panthers. Despite the less than gaudy numbers, quarterback Matthew Stafford has targeted Ebron eight times, compared to three for Brandon Pettigrew and six for Fauria.

Regardless of who's playing, the Lions need more production from their tight ends to support a passing offense that has struggled in the past two weeks.

"We have very good weapons on the outside, so there will come a time where our production comes in and then we start opening things up a lot more," Ebron said. "It just takes time."

The tight ends rotate regularly, occasionally with two on one play, but each has a specific role, according to offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

The matchup against the Jets could be the perfect time for Ebron and Pettigrew to produce. New York has the NFL's top run defense, but a suspect secondary, especially if cornerback Dee Milliner (quad) can't play. Last week, the Jets gave up five catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns to Bears tight end Martellus Bennett.

Even though Ebron hasn't played much, he has impressed with the part of his game many analysts believed a weakness.

"I think that he's probably blocking a lot better than people would've thought he would've coming out of college," Lombardi said. "You can see that he runs good routes and he's catching the ball a lot better.

"I think we've just got to be patient and let it take its course, and you're going to see some big production out of him eventually."

Ebron said his blocking has improved, in part, because tight ends coach Ron Prince works with him before practice.

Still, he admits it's been surprising to block players like Packers linebacker Julius Peppers.

"He's done everything he's supposed to do," Pettigrew said. "He handles himself like a professional. Obviously, he has a big role; he accepts it."

Sunday, Ebron will have a chance to do more than threaten the Jets defense. And if he plays like he's been practicing, he should start to show what the Lions saw when they selected him 10th overall in May.

"He's a big, fast guy," safety Don Carey said. "I think once he gets the route running down better, he's going to be a force, man. You can just see the potential because he flashes every now and again some great things."

Lions at Jets

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Detroit 2-1, New York 1-2

Line: Lions by 1.5

Series: Tied 6-6 (Detroit 23-20, OT, Nov. 7, 2010)

Did you know? Matthew Stafford needs seven touchdown passes to pass Hall of Famer Bobby Layne for most in franchise history.