The Lions have five tight ends on their roster, but they could very well have just two available for Sunday’s game against the Falcons in London.
Two Lions tight ends — Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron — have been ruled out for Sunday. Another tight end, Brandon Pettigrew, is doubtful because of a foot injury. This could leave Detroit with just newly signed Kellen Davis and recently promoted Jordan Thompson at tight end against Atlanta.
At first glance, this seems like a potential problem for the Detroit offense. After all, Thompson is entering just his second game on the Lions’ active roster, while Davis joined Detroit just this week.
However, the Lions have experience carrying just two active tight ends. In fact, they’ve done it the last four games with Fauria on the mend with an ankle injury.
And a look at formation data logged by the NFL suggests the Lions’ offense can probably fare just fine with just two tight ends in the club’s final game before its Nov. 2 bye.
Through seven games, the Lions have used two or more tight ends on 23.9 percent of their plays from scrimmage (110-of-461). They have deployed at least two tight ends on 28.6 percent of first downs and 28.3 percent of second downs.
On third down, however, the Lions have utilized two tight ends or more on just 7-of-102 plays (6.9 percent). On fourth downs, they have trotted out two tight ends on 2-of-4 snaps.
On average, the Lions are running about 66 plays. And if their typical tight end usage continues, they’ll have Davis and Thompson on the field together about 16 times.
Whenever the Lions return to closer to full strength at tight end, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi may be afforded more schematic flexibility. But the Lions have shown they can manage even with less-than-ideal circumstances at this key position.