Brandon Pettigrew Will Be Vital to Detroit's Offense in 2012

J.P. ScottSenior Analyst IJuly 19, 2012

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 11:  Brandon Pettigrew #87 of the Detroit Lions scores on a first quarter touchdown during the game against the Minneota Vikings at Ford Field on December 11, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

People are starting to put together lists and predictions in regard to what teams will be hanging big numbers on scoreboards in 2012.

The Detroit Lions will be on most of those lists.

When you factor in a young quarterback who is about to enter his prime, arguably the best group of four wide receivers in the league and two dynamic running backs like Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, the Lions look scary on paper.

The problem is, they'll still have to take the field. When they do, they are going to need tight end Brandon Pettigrew to play at a high level.

Regardless of the prolific passers in the NFC North, you still need to run the ball in December to be able to win the division. Though he is known as a receiver first, Pettigrew's underrated blocking skills will be a vital part of Detroit's run game as they make a push for the playoffs and rely on Best and Leshoure to close out games.

When Matthew Stafford drops back into the pocket, he'll need Pettigrew to establish himself as a dangerous target to draw defenders underneath early and often. This will help free up the likes of Calvin Johnson and younger speedsters Ryan Broyles and Titus Young.

The tight end boom of 2011 may cause many Detroit fans to expect more from their big man, but that isn't his role in this offense. He'll be best utilized in the passing game as an outlet, possession type receiver between the 20's.

In the red-zone, however, I predict Pettigrew to be Stafford's first check down if Calvin Johnson is not open. With all the attention opposing defenses are going to place on stopping "Megatron," Pettigrew could end up reaping huge benefits by way of touchdown catches.

In 2012, Pettigrew should get his average 750 or so receiving yards this season, but with a career high in touchdown grabs of seven or more.