By: Will Burchfield
Eric Ebron has given up on winning over Lions fans.
Even after a strong performance in Sunday’s win over the Buccs in which Ebron set career highs in both catches (10) and yards (94), the fourth-year tight end and former first-round draft pick said he doesn’t get any satisfaction in proving his critics wrong.
“No, because I bet they can’t wait to talk about how I dropped a ball. I mean, I’ll never make this fanbase happy, which is cool with me. I’ll just go out there and continue to do what I do, and go from there,” Ebron told reporters, via MLive.com.
Ebron has been a frequent target of fan frustration this season. That’s not a new development, by any means, but the boos this year have grown louder, more spiteful. In October he asked the fans, “Cut a brother some slack.”
What advice would Jim Caldwell give Ebron in terms of fixing that relationship?
“All I can tell you is I look at how he performs more so than anything else. As long as he’s performing and getting better all the time, which he is and which he’s always done since he’s been here, he’ll be fine,” Caldwell said.
Ebron knows the fans expect more of him; he expects more of himself. And to his credit, he’s raised his game of late. He’s caught 22 of 26 targets for 215 yards in his last four games. He’s cleaned up the drops. He’s gaining yards after the catch. He’s been a legitimate weapon within the Lions’ offense.
Still, he doesn’t think the fans’ opinion will change.
Asked if that’s hard on him, Ebron said, “No. Why would it be hard on me? I’m just chillin’.”
He insists the doubters and haters don’t faze him, anyway.
“I know what I’m capable of,” he said. “Everyone else is just outside noise. And that’s just how it is. I’ll just continue to play my game.”
If Ebron himself isn’t taking any pleasure in proving people wrong, his teammates are happy for him.
“All them boos turning into catches now,” said Darius Slay, via MLive. “Everyone wants to ride him. We as a team never lost faith in him, because we know what kind of player he is.”
Said Marvin Jones, “His confidence has obviously built up. He’s making some important catches, particularly on third downs. It’s been great. I know he’s confident, and I know he wants to make those big plays.”
When he does, the Lions’ passing attack is even better. His only mistakes on Sunday came in the form of an early fumble — the first of his career — and a ball that tipped off his hands late. Matthew Stafford said it was his fault.
“He would’ve had a bigger day if I would’ve hit him on that one third down on the cross. There is still room for improvement on my end helping those guys out, but Eric did a great job, man. When we get production out of him like that it’s a big boost for our offense,” said Stafford.
Throughout Ebron’s career, Caldwell has defended him by pointing to his steady improvement. Ebron increased his reception and yardage totals in each of his first three seasons, cresting in 61 catches for 711 yards in 2016. And throughout this season, which has thus far been a step backward for Ebron, Caldwell has stressed patience.
“Let’s just wait and see where he is at the end of the year,” the coach likes to say.
Ebron has come around of late, no doubt. He probably won’t surpass last season’s numbers with just three games to go and he certainly won’t meet his goal of reaching the Pro Bowl, but it’s been a redemptive second half.
“When you look at the stats, he’s been playing decently here in the last three, four weeks,” said Caldwell.
How the fans respond is up to them. Neither Caldwell nor Ebron is worrying about it.