DETROIT—Johnny Manziel wasn’t the only prized rookie to make his NFL preseason debut Saturday night at Ford Field, and he wasn’t the only one to have his skills put to use in interesting ways while doing so.
While all eyes were on the Cleveland Browns quarterback as Manziel lined up in the pistol formation and ran option plays dialed up by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, fellow rookie Eric Ebron was going about things with less fanfare for the Detroit Lions. But it’s possible that the tight end’s impact will be as significant once the regular season rolls around.
Ebron, the 10th overall selection in the NFL draft in May by the Lions, had only one catch for two yards Saturday night against the Browns. But more significantly, the Lions provided a glimpse of the way Ebron will be utilized this season by putting him at a variety of places in the offensive formation on different plays.
He lined up at tight end. He lined up in the slot. He lined up in the backfield. He lined up at wide receiver.
“I think I’m going to play quarterback one play,” Ebron said after the game. “We’ll see. Our playbook is open wide.”
Ebron’s presence in the lineup promises to give Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford another pass-catching option to keep defenses from focusing too intently on wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who didn’t play Saturday. He already has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Graham, the two-time Pro Bowl tight end for the New Orleans Saints, and some within the league seem convinced that Ebron could be a standout in the NFL as quickly as anyone in this year’s draft class.
“Ebron’s situation was that he was a little banged up earlier in the week and he got a little healthier,” Lions Coach Jim Caldwell said after the game. “So we were able to stick him in the ballgame and go. I’m glad he got healthy where he could get some work because he needs it.”