Detroit Lions: Josh Hill is everything a backup TE needs to be

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions are replacing tight end Jesse James with a familiar face.  Recently the Lions signed Josh Hill.

Hill had been a cap casualty of the New Orleans Saints, who entered the offseason having the league’s worst cap situation.  With the 2021 NFL salary cap, decreasing teams are forced to navigate their way from $198.2 million in 2020 to $182.5 million in 2021.

Teams always plan for a steadily increasing cap, so with the cap decreasing due to the coronavirus pandemic, it complicates things.  Many players (mostly on playoff contenders) are willingly shifting some of the money from salary to a bonus that won’t count against the cap to keep the band together.

Recently the Detroit Lions opted to part ways with Christian Jones, Jesse James, Desmond Trufant, Justin Coleman, and star receiver Kenny Golladay.

The Lions are back in year one of what feels like a neverending rebuild.  This is a necessary regime change; this new group deserves to re-shape this roster and get their type of players replacing the lackluster roster the previous regime left behind.

Josh Hill will be a nice complement to T.J. Hockenson for the Detroit Lions.

Hill’s play resembles the play of his former position and now head coach Dan Campbell.  We know the Detroit Lions will be committed to a smash-mouth style of offense which justifies this addition.

The veteran tight end turns 31 in May caught eight passes last season on ten targets totaling 46 yards and one touchdown.

Hill is expected to be utilized primarily as a blocker in offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn’s two tight end sets.

I expect Lynn to use Hunter Bryant throughout the 2021 season, but Hill will likely be utilized as a red zone threat.  Often we see these ‘blocking’ tight ends fit-up around the goal line like they are going to block but quickly release and catch a wide-open touchdown pass.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Hill produced a solid 72.8 run-blocking grade this past season but only provided the Saints with a wretched 47.6 mark as a pass-blocker.  That pass-blocking grade was indeed the worst of his career.

Hill proved to be a stellar pass-blocker and mediocre run blocker through the first five years of his career.  As he’s improved as a run blocker, he’s struggled as a pass blocker over the last few seasons.

I don’t fret much about the pass-blocking grade; it’s far more important to have a tight end that can fire off the line of scrimmage and help an offensive tackle chip a defensive end or bully an edge rusher/linebacker in the run game.

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Campbell knows exactly what he’s getting, and Hill fills a need for the Lions.