By Will Burchfield
Twitter: Burchie_kid

Since being selected tenth overall in the 2014 NFL draft, tight end Eric Ebron has been an off-and-on presence in the Lions’ offense. But with Jim Bob Cooter calling plays this season, Ebron expects that to change.

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“It’s a lot more exciting to be a tight end in this offense,” Ebron said with a smile after the Lions’ final organized team activity on Thursday afternoon.

Asked to clarify what he meant by that, Ebron left it up to the imagination.

“When August comes around, and September,” he grinned, “you’ll see.”

Cooter was named the Lions’ interim offensive coordinator last season after Joe Lombardi was removed from the position following the team’s week-eight loss to the Vikings. The offense made significant strides under Cooter toward the end of the campaign, prompting the Lions to name him the permanent offensive coordinator in January.

Now, the 31-year-old Cooter has a full offseason to install his playbook. And the players seem energized by the fresh look.

“I think we’re all excited about what his philosophy is and what he brings to the game of football,” Ebron said. “It should be fun.”

On top of his tactical approach, Ebron has taken to Cooter’s forthright personality.

“He’s straightforward. He’s going to tell you what’s up. You ball, you play; you don’t, you ride the pine. That’s just simple football. And he keeps it real with all of us, as you would say. He’s not hiding anything, he’s not babysitting anyone,” Ebron explained.

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And the third-year tight end thinks a direct, no-frills communicator is just what the Lions need.

“I feel like growing up, especially my era of kids growing up, we’ve all been babied. We need someone to tell us what’s real and Jim Bob does that and lets us know and brings out the best in us.”

Cooter’s firm personality doesn’t make him resistant to change, though. Like every coach on the staff, he is open to suggestions from the players and welcomes the chance to move things around for the betterment of the team.

“It’s an open-door policy with all of our coaches. You can go talk to them about whatever, and they’re player’s coaches. They keep it real with us and we keep it real with them – the things we do like, the things we don’t like – and they all make changes or we make changes, so it’s definitely a two-way street,” said Ebron.

The same could likely have been said for Lombardi. Ultimately, what separates Cooter from his predecessor is his willingness to think outside the box on offense. And if Ebron is any indication, this certainly hasn’t been lost on the players.

“Yes, yes,” Ebron replied emphatically, when asked if Cooter takes more risks with his play-calling. “And that’s the best part about it. We have talent on our offense and you utilize it. He’s going to take risks and we’re going to go out and make plays for him so he keeps on doing it.”

There was no mistaking Ebron’s energy after practice on Thursday afternoon. His eyes shined and his voice gained steam anytime he spoke of the team’s offense. Clearly, he believes in Cooter’s vision.

So can Lion’s fan expect to see a different version of Ebron this season? Well, not completely.

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“I’m still just as handsome as I was last year,” he smiled.