The Detroit Lions tight end group might be one larger than expected

Detroit Lions Michael Roberts (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions Michael Roberts (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

This may be the cloudiest picture on the Detroit Lions roster. Only one of the tight ends has stepped up to claim a role, and he might not make the team.

Luke Willson was supposed to be the Detroit Lions number one receiving tight end for the 2018 season. He left the third preseason game with a knee injury and did not return. Even up to that point, however, the tight end group looked like a bunch of players who fell just short of deserving their role, with one exception who just keeps proving he can do more.

Willson was the big free agent signing. When the Lions cut Eric Ebron, this was their follow up move. He has been the guy getting the first-team reps during camp, but he hasn’t really looked the part when the lights were on him during games. Being the best option the Lions have, doesn’t make a player good.

Levine Toilolo is an established NFL veteran. His skill set is to block as well as anyone in the league at the position and slip out occasionally for a short reception. He has been exactly as advertised.

Michael Roberts has been maddeningly inconsistent. On one play he will make a nice catch and truck three defensive backs for a tough first down. The next, he will miss a blocking assignment completely, or drop an easy catch. He has looked like another season as the Lions third tight end would be in his best interest.

That is the core of the Lions tight end group. Those three players are most likely to get the most snaps, by far. If Willson is hurt, however, there is an in-house solution to the receiving tight end problem. Hakeem Valles is officially, I am calling it here, the 2018 pre-season darling of the Lions fan base.

Valles looked great in the first two preseason games. He was playing against the other team’s fourth and fifth stringers for the most part though. With the injury to Willson, Valles got his shot against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Valles did not look out of place taking on Lavonte David and the Buc’s first-team defense. In fact, Valles looked just as good against real NFL players as he had against camp bodies.

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Any chance of Willson not being ready for week one will land Valles a roster spot, at least to begin the year. Toilolo and Roberts will likely be the number two and three tight ends in either case. Everything the Lions have done this offseason at the position has said that the Lions valued blocking over receiving. Valles is not an accomplished blocker.