Luke Willson has a pretty big task ahead of him. After spending most of his days in Seattle acting as the No. 2 tight end for the Seahawks, he may be expected to take on a much bigger role now that he has signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions. The Lions’ tight end room is full of a bunch of new faces, with second-year Michael Roberts being the only expected contributor that has even a single year of experience in Detroit.
Tack on the fact that the Lions have a brand new head coach in Matt Patricia, and just about every tight end on this roster is starting from square one. But it’s Willson with the most NFL experience, so he may be the one expected to take on a leadership role. Based on his press conference on Tuesday, he seems up to the task.
“I’m here to help win ball games,” Willson said. “That’s it.”
But questions remain regarding what exact role he’ll play in Detroit. Will he be the pass-catching threat that the Lions lost in Eric Ebron? Will he use his big body and frame to help block in the running game now that Darren Fells is off the roster? Willson doesn’t know the answer to those questions yet.
“I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into just doing one role,” Willson said. “I just want to be able to go out there, prove myself—these coaches have got to get to know me, and then let them decide what my role will be.”
In Seattle, Willson wasn’t just the pass-catching tight end. Though every year he had at least 15 catches and one receiving touchdown, he also displayed his versatility when the Seahawks faced some injuries. Willson noted his experience in 2014, when his teammate Zach Miller suffered an ankle injury in Week 3:
“My first year we had Zach Miller, I was more of a down-the-seams tight end. Zach got hurt, and I had to quickly kind of learn to be a more hand-down type of guy. I think that’s kind of benefitted me and my career, because I feel comfortable doing whatever they ask me to do.”
As nicely broken down by our friends at Field Gulls, since that 2014 season, Willson has been used in a variety of roles, including what is called the “H-back” position, which doubles as a fullback kind of role in running situations. Willson’s success in that spot has been inconsistent, but it’s something the Lions may keep in mind when developing gameplans, especially considering one of Willson’s best performances as a run blocker came against the Lions in the 2016 Wild Card game.
But because the Lions are still in just Phase 2 of offseason workouts, it’s really too early to determine his role in the offense. CBA rules declare that practice must still be limited to just individual and “perfect play” drills. In other words, the Lions are still in the getting-to-know-you phase of their own players, and will really get down into the nitty-gritty when OTAs begin next week.