As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the tight end position. (The final year of each player's contract is listed in parentheses.)
Back from last season: Brandon Pettigrew (2017), Eric Ebron (2017+TO), Joseph Fauria (2015), Jordan Thompson (2016)
New to the team: Casey Pierce (2017), David Ausberry (2015)
Considering the Lions re-signed Brandon Pettigrew, used the 10th overall pick on Eric Ebron and had a breakout undrafted free agent returning in Joseph Fauria, expectations were quite high for the tight end position last year. Those expectations didn't even come close to being met, though. Injuries ravaged the position, and the Lions just could never get their tight ends going.
This year, Ebron is expected to become the No. 3 option in the passing game. The Lions have high hopes for him, and he needs a strong sophomore season.
Pettigrew also needs a strong season given that he's a prime candidate to be cut next year. He didn't necessarily get a ton of opportunities in the passing game last season, so who knows what his role will look like this year, but he needs to be a stout blocker at the inline tight end position.
As for Fauria, he just needs to get healthy first and foremost. The ankle injury that derailed his 2014 season has lingered into this offseason, and if he can't get healthy by the time training camp arrives, that will be a cause for some concern.
Also at tight end are Jordan Thompson, Casey Pierce and David Ausberry. Thompson briefly appeared on the 53-man roster but spent most of last season on the practice squad, and Pierce joined the Lions this offseason as an undrafted free agent. Ausberry has the most experience of the bunch considering he played for the Oakland Raiders from 2011-14, but he only recently signed with Detroit.
Need going forward?
If Fauria can't get healthy or some other injury pops up, the Lions might need to bring in extra help at this position. I suppose they already did that by signing Ausberry, but as the Lions learned last season, depth at tight end can evaporate pretty quickly.