By Ashley Dunkak
Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew has struggled to hold onto the football recently, and head coach Jim Schwartz said Thursday that Pettigrew needs to be more consistent with his catches, although he maintains that Pettigrew’s value comes from more than just the plays on which he touches the ball.
“He blocked very well in the game, and I think that that’s something that maybe hasn’t gone noticed with him,” Schwartz said. “Part of a tight end’s job is blocking, and he’s done a very good job in our run game. One of the reasons we were able to run so effectively in the first week was Pettigrew and his blocking, and he’s also made some plays for us. Made an outstanding catch at the beginning of that two-minute drive.”
All that aside, Schwartz said the Lions will look to get other players involved in the pass game, presumably including undrafted rookie tight end Joe Fauria, who made a grab for a touchdown in week one against the Vikings.
“Every guy on the roster has a role, and we’re going to get those guys, try to get everyone involved in it,” Schwartz said. “That’s something [Pettigrew] does need to do better when it comes to catching the ball in traffic. There’s some contact on those plays and defenders are getting hands on balls and stuff like that, but part of that job description is you’ve got to be able to make catches in traffic. That’s something he’s done in the past, and we’ve got confidence he’ll get back to that.”
Catches from the tight ends and receivers not named Calvin Johnson will make the difference for the Lions. The job of those players, though, is much easier when defenders have to think about Johnson and running back Reggie Bush, who is questionable for Sunday’s game against Washington.
“He’s been sore this week, but if he’s able to get out there and do some stuff, that’ll be good for us,” Schwartz said. “We’ll make a decision Sunday, if it gets to that point, of whether we think he can be effective or not, whether it’s a limited role or a full-time role, and we’ll just make the best decision that way, but he’s improving. He’s a tough guy. He’s been through different stuff, and he’s a tough guy, and I know that if he can, he’ll be out there on Sunday.”
Detroit’s offense evaporated when Bush had to exit the game in Arizona, prompting concerns that the Lions cannot move the ball without Bush in the game to either make big plays or take enough attention that other players are freed up.
“He is a very important part of our offense, but we also need to get contributions out of the other guys,” Schwartz said. “When we beat Minnesota in the opener, we got contributions from a lot of different guys on offense, and we didn’t get those contributions against Arizona. They were able to take those guys sort of away, and part of that had to do with that they didn’t have to pay attention to Reggie Bush on the field, so it all works together, but if you can’t play, then the next man up needs to step up and go, and injuries are a fact of life in the NFL.”
One player who might be getting more work this week if Bush cannot go is Mikel Leshoure, who rushed for 798 yards for the Lions last season but has not dressed for either of the first two games this season.
“He’s been inactive for the first two games mainly because of the other runners that we have and then also the special teams role that [running back Theo] Riddick has played, so it hasn’t been anything to do with whether he’s had a good week or not because Mikel’s practicing very well and he played well in the preseason games, and if he’s called up, we have a lot of confidence in him,” Schwartz said. ” We know he’ll get the job done. But everybody’s got to bring something to that Sunday game plan, whether it’s a role on offense, whether it’s a special teams role, things like that, and just we can only keep 46 players, and so that’s been the decision so far in the first couple of games. It hasn’t changed his preparation, it hasn’t changed his effort during the week, and he’s a guy we certainly trust if he’s called upon.”