Below is a recap of what Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi had to say about the team's pick of tight end Eric Ebron on Thursday night. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM CALDWELL
On 97.1 FM, the Lions Radio Network
On Ebron making the wide receivers on the team better: "What I do think happens is he's going to force teams to make a choice on how they cover Calvin (Johnson), in particular, because often times he draws double coverage consistently. Golden (Tate) has added another element to that and Brandon (Pettigrew) on the inside, and then add a fourth guy that can get up the field and who can create problems and get up the middle. He's going to give us some great matchups."
On drafting an offensive player instead of defensive: "We have to make sure it's the best pick for us and I think he (Ebron) gives us some very individual qualities that we're going to able to take advantage of. There are still three more days to go, so we'll wait to see what happens down the road before anyone assesses it overall."
On how Ebron will be used: "We can get into some sets where we have Eric and Brandon (Pettigrew) on the field at the same time. So, now their defense has a situation where they have to make a determination on how they want to match up against us. He's big and he's strong and he's physical. They may think they have to leave their linebacker in the game because he's a tight end-type, and the minute you do, it gives you problems in terms of matchups or if they say, ‘Hey, we're going to bring in a nickel back,' it gives you more problems because now you have a big strong individual that is matched up against a much smaller person. The matchups that he's going to create will be tough to handle."
Opening statement: "Good evening, this is an exciting time for us. Obviously, you saw with our first pick we choose Eric Ebron, a very talented individual. We have gotten to know him throughout the draft process to be a man of great quality, a hard-working guy who enjoys playing the game. He has great passion for the game. When you first get an opportunity to talk with him, I am sure you guys will within the next 24 hours or so, you will find him to be a fun-loving guy who has a great desire to excel in terms of football. He is a tremendous physical talent, obviously. He is a guy who can run for his size, the matchups will be a bit unusual in that sense. Without question we anticipate that he is going to be a guy that comes and contributes early for us. It is going to give us an opportunity from a matchup standpoint to do some things with he and Brandon (Pettigrew) in the game at the same time. It will give us some balance and make it very, very difficult for defenses to match up. For a schematics standpoint, I brought Joe (Lombardi) in to talk to you a little bit about some things in detail to that regard. We are excited about him and we can get him in here and put him to work, and that's going to happen pretty soon with this draft being so late. We will be able have him in and start working with him on Monday, so we are looking forward to that."
On what a pass-catching tight end adds to an offense: "It creates difficulties, especially a guy like Eric who is well over 240 pounds that can run extremely well. So, what it does indeed do is force the defense to make a determination on how you want to play him. Brandon (Pettigrew) is on one side and he is on the other. How are you going to treat him? Are you going to treat him like a tight end and leave a linebacker in the game, which creates a mismatch in terms of the passion game? Or are you going to put in a smaller defender, which also creates some problems in terms of him being able to leverage that particular player? Also, in a blocking standpoint and our run game, running in that direction would give us some advantages. Eric on the strong safety will also create some issues as well. All the guys in this league can run, but he creates an unusual matchup."
On if Ebron's drops in college are coachable: "When you look at him, you look at the number of big plays that he has had. There were a lot of passes thrown to him, and I think you will see some things improve in that regard because he has good hands. He is going to be very good in that area, and what you've seen from him is that he is very competitive. There might have been a situation where dropped one and then he will come back and catch three and score on a couple as well. He is a guy that works, and the little issues that he has had will clean themselves up. Obviously, Coach (Ron) Prince is looking forward to working with him and that is part of our job. To make sure we improve on a daily basis. I think he will come in here work at it extremely hard and do a great job."
LIONS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOE LOMBARDI
On why Ebron was so high on his board: "Certainly, from a skill position player, I think we have two really good receivers in obviously Calvin (Johnson) and Golden (Tate), and I think the tight end position that runs like Eric does, we have two pretty good tight ends as it is. But he adds a whole different skill set and that adds a whole new element to your offense with a tight end that can run like that."
On if Ebron's likeness to Saints TE Jimmy Graham makes it easier to install some of the plays he brought from New Orleans: "I think it helps some things. They are not exactly the same players, but they are both very athletic guys. Jimmy has a little bit more length, while Eric has a little more quickness. There are some things that we did with Jimmy in New Orleans that we will be able to do with Eric, and maybe some things we can do with Eric that we didn't do with Jimmy. They are both unique, but he (Ebron) is going to have a pretty big role in what we plan on doing."
On how he envisions Ebron creating more chances for WR Calvin Johnson: "Clearly, defenses have to look at offense and they only have so many resources to commit all your weapons. Anytime you get another guy who is dangerous, they have to decide how they are going to play them. If they start to focus too much on Calvin then you start beating them up with Golden (Tate) and Brandon (Pettigrew) and Joe (Fauria) and Reggie (Bush). I mean, I can keep naming the names. It gets pretty exciting when you start thinking about it. If they decide they can't let these other guys beat us, then, I mean, Calvin is scoring the touchdown. It is like Coach (Jim Caldwell) said, you can't have too many weapons and it is pretty exciting to think about."
On if putting more weapons on the field takes pressure off of Johnson physically: "Well, they certainly can have more guys with eyes on him if they aren't worried about the other players. So, when he catches the ball, there are more guys around him to hit him. I don't know if punish if the right word, but they certainly can commit more resources to stopping (Johnson). As you get more play-makers around him, it gets harder for defenses to do that. If you leave any of our players unguarded or not guarded well enough, then we are going to find a way to make them pay."
On what he imagines QB Matthew Stafford's excitement level is: "I bet you he is pretty fired up. There isn’t a quarterback in the league that wouldn’t be excited if you get a guy like Eric to work with. I am sure Matthew is plenty fired up."