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Ebron, Fauria return but can't help Lions' offense

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Sunday's game at Arizona marked the return of tight ends Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria to the lineup from their injuries.

But they weren't able to make significant contributions offensively, as the Lions got only Ebron's four catches for 22 yards from their trio of healthy tight ends. Starter Brandon Pettigrew didn't play, Joseph Fauria played only four snaps and Kellen Davis wasn't targeted, playing primarily a blocking role.

Pettigrew is the best blocking tight end of the group and was a late scratch because of a foot injury, despite practicing last week and being listed as probable on the injury report. Without Pettigrew, the offensive line struggled both in protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford and in creating running space.

"I don't think we were hampered at all. Ebron got in and played and moved around well. He may not have been perfect but I don't think we were hampered by it," coach Jim Caldwell said Monday in his weekly press conference. "Obviously, Pettigrew is the best blocker we have at that position — I don't think there's any question about that — but all of the other guys are capable.

"Kellen can do just as good a job in some of those things that we require Pettigrew to do."

Fauria, playing in his first game since injuring his ankle after Week 3, has played well in red-zone situations. Last season, he had 18 catches for 207 yards and seven touchdowns. This year, he has three catches on six targets for 49 yards and no scores. Fauria had been targeted at least once — and had one catch — in each of his previous three games this season.

"I'm out there, I'm suited up and I'm ready to play," Fauria said Monday. "I'm just ready when my name is called, and if it's not, that's up to the higher ups."

Fauria rejected the notion that he would've played more had the Lions reached the red zone more than once, but he actually didn't play any of the team's three snaps in the red zone. In the first three games of the season, Fauria averaged 26.3 snaps per game.

"At the beginning of the year, I was playing plenty outside the red zone," he said. "I don't think my talent should be pigeon-holed. "If I didn't play, I didn't play, but I'm ready to play whenever my name is called."

Against the Cardinals, rookie Eric Ebron led the tight ends with 33 snaps, and Kellen Davis played 25, filling the blocker role.

The 6-foot-7 Fauria has just three catches for 49 yards this year after having 18 catches for 207 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie.

"My injury put a little speed bump in my season," he said. "But now that I am healthy and suiting up, I can get out there with my team (and) I'll be ready when my name is called."

Although there wasn't much production in receiving from the tight ends, Caldwell said the blocking was better, as shown by the increase in rushing yards, compared to the rest of the season.

"Overall, the adjustments we have to make week in and week out, we're accustomed to doing," Caldwell said. "(Blocking) is not a reason we didn't perform well. Particularly in the area of blocking, we ran the ball better than we've run it all year.

"You can balance those and determine what kind of effect that had on the game."

Josh Katzenstein contributed