Ebron believes the addition of tight ends Darren Fells and Michael Roberts should help him this upcoming season, Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press reports. "I think it's going to play a significant role for me to allow me to do the things that I'm best at," Ebron said.
Last season, Ebron was the top gun in a tight end group that included very little established talent behind him. Due to this predicament, the 2014 first-rounder couldn't always play to his strengths because he was often the only tight end on the field and subsequently was responsible for the bulk of the position's duties as both a receiver and a blocker. With Fells around, Detroit has one of the most reliable blocking tight ends in the league. Roberts, on the other hand, is a massive target who caught 16 touchdowns during his final season at Toledo last year and can hold his own in the run game, too. Whether it's by using more two-TE sets or subbing Ebron off the field entirely, both Fells and Roberts could be utilized in a fashion that allows Ebron to stay fresh and focus on his strength as a pass catcher.
Thornton will be eligible to return to the active roster on Oct. 16, which happens to be the beginning of the Lions' bye week. The reserve defensive lineman took 307 snaps on defense last season, racking up 19 tackles and one sack through 13 contests. With Thornton sidelined, the Lions may opt to bring in another defensive tackle to bolster the depth chart behind starters Haloti Ngata and A'Shawn Robinson. Thornton is allowed to take part in offseason practices and preseason games.
The drafting of former University of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya in this year's draft initially seemed to put Rudock's hold on the No. 2 job in question, but it doesn't sound as if Kaaya has been able to pick up the playbook quick enough to serve as legitimate competition. Meanwhile, Rudock has a year of experience in OC Jim Bob Cooter's offense and has shown marked improvement from 2016 during offseason practices. Things could always change prior to Week 1, but Rudock seems unlikely to lose his role unless Kaaya puts on a show during the preseason.
Zenner could still have a role on offense despite the return of a healthy Ameer Abdullah, Mike O'Hara of the Lions' official site reports. "I see consistent progress and improvement with [Zenner]," head coach Jim Caldwell said. "I don't think anybody has any question, if you watched him progress last year, that Zach can run the ball. But he's also a guy that's very talented in terms of being able to help us on special teams. He can run the ball. He can pass protect. He can catch the ball out of the backfield."
Late last leason, after a fractured foot landed Abdullah on injured reserve with a foot injury and while Theo Riddick was on the shelf due to a pair of problematic wrists, Zenner took over lead running back duties from a struggling Dwayne Washington and aided the Lions' quest for a playoff berth by rumbling for 290 total yards and three touchdowns during the season's final three games. His average of 3.8 yards per carry was heavily skewed by his early-season struggles, considering he averaged 3.1 yards per carry across 36 attempts from Week 1 through Week 8, but he finished the season averaging 4.2 yards per carry across 63 attempts from Week 12 onwards. With both Abdullah and Riddick expected to return in feature-back and pass-catching roles, respectively, Zenner would most likely fit in as more of a short-yardage specialist, an assignment Detroit has been reserving for its plus-size running backs under Caldwell. Since Zenner checks in at 221 pounds-- compared to 203 for Abdullah and 201 for Riddick -- he certainly fits the bill. Unfortunately for fantasy purposes, Zenner might turn out to be more of a nuisance than anything considering he won't see many carries behind Abdullah but will be a threat to vulture touchdowns on a weekly basis.
Kouandjio, a former second-round pick of the Bills, largely struggled during his first three seasons and was eventually let go by the Bills at the end of May. The Lions, however, just lost fellow tackle Taylor Decker for at least the next four months because of a shoulder injury, so Kouandjio will be brought in for additional help on the line in Detroit. The Lions also recently traded for tackle Greg Robinson, so Kouandjio isn't guaranteed significant snaps or even a spot on the final roster.