"I think that's going to be a big key to our growth is to get more production from Eric, and I think he's ready to do that," Lombardi said Tuesday, per the Detroit Free Press. "I know he's been making some trips to Atlanta to work with Matt already this offseason, so he's -- the thing you like about Eric is he's a bright kid and he works hard and he wants to be good. So we expect very big things from him moving forward."
"There's a big learning curve, obviously, for any rookie, and the tight end position is one that requires a lot," Lombardi said. "As you look back, if you're self-critical, you might say maybe we asked a little bit too much of him, from that perspective. So I think there's just a volume that he struggled with early, but he was productive and, again, for anybody, the second year's always where you see the biggest jump."
Ebron turned 3.8 targets into 1.9 catches for 19 yards and 0.08 TD as a rookie. He played half the snaps, so his lack of production is somewhat alarming. Tight end is a tough position to learn as a rookie, so there is some reason for optimism given Ebron's skill set.
"Our biggest thing is, in order to win football games, you've got to first not lose them, and I thought that he played smart football, and sometimes to a fault," Lombardi said Tuesday, per Ashley Dunkak of CBS Detroit. "We'll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football. He's got the arm to do it. He's got the receivers to throw it to."
After three straight top 10 finishes, Stafford was the #17 QB in 2014, though he was only a couple of touchdowns out of the #13 spot. As the 10th QB off the board in early drafts, it's possible that Stafford is being overdrafted, though if he's being encouraged to take more chances, it could boost his fantasy numbers.
Friday, December 19, 2014, 6:02pm
Broncos QB Peyton Manning (thigh) took limited practice reps again Friday. Manning will face Cincinnati, but he hasn’t played well (fantasy-wise) in recent weeks. He’s still pretty much a must-start, but it’s conceivable that an owner would bench him for Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan, given the matchups.
Thursday, December 18, 2014, 6:14pm
Broncos QB Peyton Manning (thigh) took limited practice reps Thursday. Manning will face Cincinnati, but he hasn’t played well (fantasy-wise) in recent weeks. He’s still pretty much a must-start, but it’s conceivable that an owner would bench him for Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan, given the matchups.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 10:04am
When Calvin Johnson missed three games earlier this season, it gave Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford a chance to get comfortable with and accustomed to all of the other targets on the team's roster.
Golden Tate thrived and is already over 1,000 yards this season.
But since Johnson returned against Miami in Week 10, the all-too-familiar Stafford-to-Johnson combination has not been as effective as normal. Stafford has only completed 43 percent of his targets to Johnson over the past three weeks and it is the first time since Johnson's rookie season in 2007 that he has gone three straight weeks catching less than 50 percent of his targets.
The story goes on to say that over the past three weeks, Johnson has been targeted 37 times, caught 16 passes for 230 yards with two drops. In comparison, Tate has been targeted 24 times and caught 17 passes for 247 yards and no drops. Caldwell believes Johnson is still moving at the same speed as he did at the beginning of the season, despite an ankle injury that limited him in two games and kept him out of three others.
Tate did much of his damage when Johnson was sidelined three weeks with a high ankle sprain, posting the two highest receiving totals of his career against the New Orleans Saints (154 yards) and Atlanta Falcons (151 yards).
During that time he was able to rapidly develop chemistry with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
"Having Calvin back certainly changed the dynamics a little bit, but you still see the little guy comes up big and played extremely well," HC Jim Caldwell said. "And I think with Calvin just being absent those few weeks, the rapport that was developed between Golden and Matthew is something that is certainly going to help us down the stretch."
Tate's recent stretch has been so impressive, he surpassed one of Johnson's many team records in the victory. The 11-catch performance is Tate's sixth consecutive game with seven or more receptions, besting a mark he came into the day sharing with Johnson and Brett Perriman.
This is great news for Tate owners. It was natural to expect a bit of a drop in Tate's numbers with the return of Johnson this week. But Tate had another big day and it looks like the time he had to develop with Stafford will pay off down the stretch. He should remain on the WR2 fantasy radar.
Lions WR Calvin Johnson looked crisp in practice and seems to be as close to 100 percent this far into a season as he has been in a long time. The impact should be massive. With Johnson out, QB Matthew Stafford and WR Golden Tate found a strong connection. Now teams will have to account for Tate and Johnson, along with the potential of the Lions' running backs. That's a lot to deal with for any defense.
We're expecting Johnson to be his usual self in Week 10, though the matchup with a streaking Dolphins defense is a tough one.
Friday, October 17, 2014, 6:20pm
Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring, doubtful) missed practice again Friday and is doubtful for Week 7. Ebron’s likely absence will leave Matthew Stafford very shorthanded in the receiving department with Calvin Johnson also likely out.
Thursday, October 16, 2014, 6:18pm
Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring) missed practice Thursday after taking limited reps Wednesday. Midweek downgrades are never a good sign. Ebron seems doubtful for Week 7, leaving Matthew Stafford shorthanded in the receiving department with Calvin Johnson also likely out.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford has been sacked 11 times this season, putting him on pace for a career-high 44 this year. And it’s even worse than the numbers look, because Stafford isn’t dropping back to pass as much as he has the last couple years. This year Stafford has been sacked on 6.9 percent of his dropbacks. Last year he was sacked on 3.5 percent of his dropbacks. And those numbers don’t include the times Stafford has ended up running when he wanted to pass; Stafford is on pace for a career-high 68 rushing attempts in part because he’s been forced to run at times.
Despite all that, Stafford says things are fine with his offensive line.
There is one big problem on the Lions’ line, however: Detroit has been down to its third-string right tackle since starter LaAdrian Waddle and backup Corey Hilliard both suffered injuries in Week One. Garrett Reynolds has struggled filling in, particularly last week against the Jets, when Stafford was sacked four times.
Lions WR Calvin Johnson stood at his locker Sunday afternoon and laughed at the suggestion. His coach, Jim Caldwell, had said that Johnson at 90 percent was better than a lot of players at full strength.
Except Johnson, when he was asked if 90 percent was a fair barometer for his status, was not there.
“Nah,” Johnson said, laughing at the suggestion.
Johnson was limited during the Detroit Lions' 24-17 win over the New York Jets on Sunday after being questionable to play with an ankle injury suffered against Green Bay last week. He was used far less than he had been in the Lions’ first three games, when he was typically in the game for at least 75 percent of the plays.
On Sunday, he rarely played two plays in a row and was only targeted twice by quarterback Matthew Stafford, catching both of those passes for 12 yards. He didn’t have his typical explosiveness or speed and after the game was still noticeably limping.
“Went out there. It was tough but I figured from moving around [on Saturday] that I’d be able to get on the field a little bit,” Johnson said. “It’s good to be out there with the fellas. It sucks to be on the sideline and not be able to play at all. It sucks to have injuries, too, but that’s just part of the game.”
It looks like he was the dreaded decoy, leaving fantasy owners with just a couple of points from their stud WR. The good news is there were no setbacks and Johnson, though limited in practice last week, felt like he improved all last week. It's now a big question how Johnson is used in Week 5. The story said a similar approach will be taken with Johnson over the next week as the team prepares for the Bills. Johnson didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday and was limited on Friday of last week. The Week 5 game is a 1 p.m. contest so we'll know Johnson's status at least.
Friday, September 26, 2014, 6:33pm
Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle, questionable) returned to take limited reps Friday after missing practice earlier in the week and is questionable for Week 4. The practice is encouraging, but Johnson is not out of the woods yet. The Lions play early on Sunday, which helps. Golden Tate and Eric Ebron would get a big boost if Megatron can’t play. Matthew Stafford’s upside would take a huge hit if he is without his top receiver.
Monday, September 22, 2014, 10:42am
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi had stressed during the week he wanted to have more patience with the Lions' running game after two weeks of ineffectiveness. He also wanted to find a way for Bush, who has game-breaking speed, to be more involved.
Bush had 12 carries and 61 yards on Sunday, more yards than he gained in the first two weeks of the season combined on almost as many carries. He had 15 total carries the first two weeks combined.
Bush was also targeted eight times by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the most Bush has been targeted this season as a receiver. He caught six of those passes for 38 yards. The Lions' rushing game is still struggling -- a 3.0 yards per carry average is not going to please Lombardi or Jim Caldwell -- but Bush showed signs of life late Sunday with a 26-yard TD run. Heading into this week, Joique Bell was considered the team's RB1, at least based on his snaps. Bell still had 15 carries but for only 33 and did not catch a pass. It seems like the team made it a point to get Bush more involved. Both will continue to have low-end RB2 and flex values but depending on game plan, one could be more involved than the other.
Durham played well at times for the Lions, but when Detroit signed Golden Tate this offseason there was one less roster spot available for a wide receiver, and it appears that Durham will lose the numbers game to be one of the backups behind Tate and Calvin Johnson.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 12:28pm
The Lions ran screens 67 times last season according to ESPN Stats & Information, completing 52 of those passes. While the 77.6 completion percentage isn’t great, Detroit gained 525 yards on screens last season, good enough for third in the NFL.
The Lions averaged 7.84 yards per screen and scored three touchdowns using them last season. The yards per screen, total yards, attempts, passer rating and touchdowns were all Top 5 in the league last season.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford's screen numbers would have been higher, too, except the Lions led the league with five dropped screens and were the only team to fumble twice on screen passes, losing one.
Last season’s overall success, though, is part of the reason why the Lions appear unconcerned about the team’s screens this preseason. While the Lions had a perfectly set up screen go for 36 yards with RB Theo Riddick against Oakland, there have been other screens that have been blown up pretty easily.
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