Daily Focus: Lions might have to adjust for Ebron's injury
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
How will the Lions fare if Eric Ebron’s injury is season ending? Detroit Lions TE Eric Ebron suffered a lower leg injury in the team’s scrimmage on Saturday. It has been reported that the injury is an Achilles injury, though there are also other reports that he’s told teammates he’s fine, so it remains to be seen how serious this is. While Lions’ fans know all too well that we at PFF haven’t graded Ebron very well, particularly his poor blocking grades, missing the season would be a big hit to the offense as they have no real viable options behind him.
In 2015, Ebron graded as the 39th overall TE in the NFL despite showing improvement as a receiver. Where Ebron struggled mostly was as a run-blocker, as he was consistently beat by defenders and wasn’t able to control his blocks and losing leverage. Ebron wasn’t strong in pass protection, but he only stayed in to block on 31 snaps and getting beat a few times will take a players’ grade down pretty quickly without much room to bring that grade up. In both cases, Ebron could very well have made strides in both areas this offseason as another year in an NFL weight room for a player of Ebron’s stature can make a significant difference.
Where the former North Carolina Tar Heel showed signs of life in 2015 was as a receiver, especially once the coaching staff turnover was complete and Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator, grading as the 20th overall TE. Ebron dropped six passes for the eighth-worst drop rate, but he didn’t drop a single pass the last six weeks of the season. An offseason learning the new offense and the team’s first without Calvin Johnson meant 2016 had potential for Ebron to have a breakout year.
The question remains of who fills the void left by Ebron if he misses significant time. It’s a good question, as the only player on the roster that has had significant snaps at TE is Brandon Pettigrew. Tim Wright is on IR as he tore his ACL in May, so that leaves Pettigrew to start the season unless the Lions’ pick up another TE off the streets or on the waiver wire when cuts are made. Pettigrew hasn’t played well since 2011 and has never fared well as a receiver. Formerly a good run-blocker, Pettigrew has worsened — he was even worse than Ebron in that category last year, as he graded as the worst in the NFL.
The Lions will look to their HBs and WRs to fill the receiving needs, and look for Anquan Boldin to most pick up the targets. Boldin is your prototypical possession receiver does the job well, as he has graded positively every year of his career. 2015 was the worst of Boldin’s career but not a lot can be made of that, considering the 49ers offense as a whole was bad. While Boldin turns 36 in October, he still can be a productive receiver and should see significant targets with Ebron sidelined.
G Jahri Evans should start for Seattle: The Seattle Seahawks announced on Saturday that they signed former New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evens. The Seahawks enter 2016 with the worst offensive line in the NFL, but Evans’ addition improves it slightly. The line is still a mess as the projected veteran starters, before Evans’ signing, all grade below 50.0, and Germain Ifedi is a rookie.
It will be interesting to see what kind of shuffling offensive line coach Tom Cable does to insert Evans into the starting lineup, but what is certain is that Evans is a massive improvement over any other guard on their roster despite his struggles the past two years. From 2006 to 2013, Evans was one of the best guards in the league, grading extremely well in pass protection and run –blocking, save for one down year in run-blocking. The past two years have been rough for Evans, as he has battled injuries and allowed more sacks (six), hits (seven) and hurries (34) in his last healthy season (2014) than any other of his career. If Evans is healthy and returns to just average play, he still remains the Seahawks best offensive lineman.
PFF at Washington Redskins’ Training Camp: Be sure to follow the TCT crew as they head to the Redskins’ training camp today. We’re covering all 32 training camps this year, breaking down key position battles, looking at the rookies and how they fit with their new teams, and how team’s free agents mesh after switching teams.
The biggest addition the Redskins made this offseason was the signing of the former Carolina Panthers CB Josh Norman. Senior analyst Sam Monson is at the camp and will watch him closely to see how he fares in the new system. Norman had a breakout year in 2015 and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain that level of play in Washington.
Our camp attendees will also keep an eye on 2015 first-round pick G Brandon Scherff. Scherff didn’t grade well in college but battled injuries in 2014. As a rookie, Scherff struggled early as expected, but was great the second half of the season, grading negatively just once. From Week 10 onward (including the playoffs) Scherff graded as the sixth-best guard in the NFL. If he can continue that success, the Redskins will have found themselves a first-round offensive lineman that can be a difference maker, a seemingly rare commodity these days.