Darren Fells rejoined the Detroit Lions this offseason after spending just one year with the franchise back in 2017. The only thing familiar about the team to him are the hallways inside Allen Park. So much has changed about the Lions in those four years, including the owner, front office, and coaches, but especially the personnel.
“The only similar thing is the building and the city,” Fells said after Thursday’s final minicamp practice. “The whole team is new, the coaching staff is new, except for three guys that were here when I was here in 2017.”
If it seems like Fells is exaggerating, he is not. Exactly three players remain from that 2017 team: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Taylor Decker, and Don Muhlbach.
Maybe the biggest change for Fells will be the tight end room he’ll be entering this year. Eric Ebron has been replaced by T.J. Hockenson, a budding star coming off his first Pro Bowl season at just 23 years old.
Fells, who just turned 35, knows his role is to set up and showcase Hockenson.
“He’s more of an F tight end—faster, moving around, receiving—and I’m more of a Y tight end, where I can go in there and do a little bit more of the dirty work,” Fells explained. “Had the conversation with him already, that if we’re both in there, I’ll be like an extra lineman for him, to give him time to get open, so he can bump that touchdown total up to 12.”
Last year, Hockenson finished third in the NFL among tight ends in receiving yards (723), but his six touchdowns were just tied for ninth. Fells isn’t the only one who sees Hockenson as capable of building upon that solid sophomore season.
“There’s plenty of meat still on the bone,” tight ends coach Ben Johnson said last month. “We’re looking forward to getting even more from him. The sky’s the limit for this kid. I really look forward to seeing him take that next step.”
But Fells doesn’t just want to work on getting Hockenson into the end zone. He needs a lot of help once he gets there.
“Then I can help him with his celebrations, because those are pretty bad right now,” Fells joked.
“His whole big thing was he just catches it and falls down, pops up, and throws the arms up. So anything is better than that. We talked about seeing what his dance moves are. I haven’t taken him out to a club or anything due to COVID, so we’ll see if he has those kinds of moves. Right now, we’re just trying to figure out what looks good to him.”
Fells, himself, knows how to get into the end zone—and how to choreograph a good celebration. Just two years ago, he pulled in seven touchdowns for the Houston Texans. And while his role figures to be much different in Detroit, he doesn’t seem too worried about a lack of opportunities to score.
“If we’re averaging eight touchdowns a game, I’m sure I can get one or two.”