The Detroit Lions shook up the receiving corps on Monday. The team waived wideout Patrick Edwards after a disappointing start to the season.
In the corollary roster move, the Lions signed Dorin Dickerson.
Just signed with the Detroit Lions! Lets gooooo— Dorin Dickerson (@scorindorin) October 14, 2013
These two represent vastly divergent skill sets and physical profiles.
His lack of strength and ability to separate from coverage were real issues. Poor play in the Cleveland game proved the end of the Lions' patience for the former Houston Cougar.
Edwards was targeted twice on the final Lions drive of the first half, both times on the same route. He failed to separate from Browns corner Chris Owens down the left sideline after Owens was not fooled by a pedestrian stutter-step move.
Matthew Stafford's throw was a bit short, but Edwards was not open and Owens batted the ball away without any fight from Edwards.
After a dropped pass by Kris Durham, Stafford once again looked Edwards' way deep down the left sideline. Edwards ran a straight "go" route, sprinting at top speed from the moment the ball was snapped.
Stafford's throw led him inside and away from the outside coverage. Edwards dove for the ball, but it clanked off his hands for a drop.
His third target in the game resulted in an interception which demonstrated his lack of length and strength. You can watch the play here, courtesy of the highlight channel on NFL.com.
Wideouts need to fight for the ball and present a bigger target than what Edwards did there.
Dickerson definitely is a bigger target. He was used as both a wide receiver and a tight end in college at Pittsburgh at 6'2" and 230 pounds.
His athleticism tantalized many as a draft prospect. USA Today gushed over Dickerson, "With 4.4 speed in the 40 and 43 1/2-inch vertical leap, will be a nightmare for linebackers to cover and powerful build makes him hard to bring down."
A seventh-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2010, Dickerson played both receiver and tight end in his early NFL career.
Unfortunately, he never found a defined role in Houston and washed out quickly. Dickerson suffered the same fate in Buffalo, where the Bills tried him as both a tight end and H-back.
The Lions plan on using him as the third tight end. With Tony Scheffler still on the shelf with a lingering concussion, the team sought a replacement in his role as a field-stretching tight end.
Dickerson has the speed and length to handle Scheffler's role. With Joseph Fauria thriving in his red-zone role and short-yardage capacity, it's not a meaty role.
Scheffler's playing time varied quite a bit in the early season.
He was inactive for Week 6 after suffering his concussion in the Week 5 loss to Green Bay.
Fauria played 24 of the 76 offensive snaps in the Cleveland game as the second tight end. Prior to that he was averaging just over 10 snaps per game, receiving 52 in the first five weeks.
I expect Fauria to see right around that 24 figure against Cincinnati. He is clearly a favored target in the red zone with his 6'7" frame and soft hands.
Dickerson will fill Fauria's old role of 10 snaps per game, but it will be in a different capacity. The Lions will look to use his speed to stretch the defense from a flexed position.
Here is a play the Lions run for Scheffler.
The tight end is lined up flexed out, directly behind fellow tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Using the two-tight end formation keeps more linebackers on the field for the defense. It's a 3rd-and-long situation, and the Lions are trying to isolate Scheffler on one of those linebackers.
Pettigrew and outside receiver Kris Durham both run quickly up the field to clear out space for Scheffler to operate. Pettigrew's inside route actually picks the linebacker flowing outside to cover Scheffler, giving him even more room.
Stafford delivers a strike, and Scheffler has time to turn up the field quickly and pick up the needed yardage.
Dorin Dickerson can absolutely fill Scheffler's shoes on plays like this. He's faster both off the line and in the open field.
The Lions have decided that the third tight end role is more valuable than the fourth wide receiver. Dickerson adds size and strength as a receiving option. Because he has experience playing as a tight end and H-back, he can dictate matchups as a movable chess piece for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
Kevin Ogletree will step into Edwards' old role as the fourth wideout. Edwards saw some crazy game splits in terms of snap counts. Twice he played exactly 59 snaps in a game, including the Green Bay game. In the two other games he was healthy, Edwards played 16 reps. That includes Sunday's game against Cleveland.
These are minor moves in the grand scheme of things. Edwards was targeted just 11 times in his four active games, per the folks at Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Ogletree saw five targets in his first two games in Detroit, while Scheffler has had 12 targets in his four games.
Dorin Dickerson probably won't see more than two or three targets and about 15 snaps in any game, but he can carve out a role if he proves he can hold onto the football. Scheffler has three frustrating drops according to Pro Football Focus, and the Lions as a team have struggled securing the pigskin.
Dickerson also provides potential to fill in for Calvin Johnson should Megatron's knee remain balky going forward. He certainly resembles Johnson a lot more than Patrick Edwards, and defenses will respect that size and physicality.
Scheffler's long-term status is the biggest question. As I mentioned in the Need to Know piece, Jim Schwartz mentioning the possibility of injured reserve does not bode well. He very well might have played his last down a Lion. Scheffler is a free agent after the season, and Fauria is clearly a rising star as the second tight end.
Consider this an extended audition for Dickerson to try and prove he can handle the Scheffler role. The athletic ability is certainly there; he just needs to translate that into production on the field.