Ebron relishing opportunity to jump start career in Indy
By MICHAEL MAROT
WESTFIELD, Ind. (AP) Suddenly, football is fun again for Eric Ebron.
He's smiling and shouting, celebrating scores and making big plays look routine at training camp. Inside the Colts' tight end meeting room, teammates hear him asking questions and offering suggestions, virtually certain Ebron will play a prominent role in Indianapolis' new offense.
It's everything Ebron wanted - a second chance to showcase his skills and finally live up to the hype surrounding him when he entered the NFL.
My deal is to just take it to the next level," Ebron said shortly after signing with the Colts in free agency. "At this place, I have a new start, I have a new finish. I have a new rep and that alone means a lot."
Ebron thought he could have achieved more in Detroit.
So did the Lions, who drafted the North Carolina product with the No. 10 overall pick in 2014.
They believed the Ebron's 6-foot-4, 253-pound frame and 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash made him a nightmarish matchup for opponents and figured Ebron could stretch the field down the middle and open up the outside for Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
Instead, Ebron's reputation was damaged by injuries and a perceived propensity for dropping passes.
He struggled with a pulled hamstring as a rookie, missed two games the next season with a strained knee and three games in 2016 with a bruised knee and sprained ankle. Last year, he missed most of training camp with a pulled hamstring but finally managed to play in all 16 games for the first time in his career.
Ebron's stats weren't bad once he got started: 47 receptions for 537 yards and five TDs in 2015, 61 catches for 711 yards with one TD in 2016 and 53 catches for 574 yards and four TDs in 2017. They just weren't the mind-blowing numbers everyone anticipated when he was a hot-shot prospect.
So the Lions decided to let a frustrated Ebron test free agency rather than exercise their fifth-year option.
Turns out, a change of scenery could be the perfect remedy to jump start Ebron's career.
Colts tight ends coach Tom Manning convinced Ebron he'd start with a clean slate and a coaching staff that values tight end mismatches. It was an offer too good to pass up.
"Tom had so many little stats and tapes put together and it is about treating him (Ebron) the right way," offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. "He is a phenomenal talent so we would be foolish not to want him on our team. But it definitely helps having guys that know how to recruit."
The Colts insist Ebron could still become the player the scouts projected.
And, of course, Ebron took note of just how creative coach Frank Reich was last season as offensive coordinator for Super Bowl champion Philadelphia.
He's not lobbying yet to throw a pass to Luck, like tight end Trey Burton did in the Super Bowl - though nobody would put it past the fun-loving, energetic newcomer.
But he should fit in nicely with a deep positon group that starts with Doyle and includes veteran Erik Swoope and possibly promising youngster Ross Travis, at least until running back Robert Turbin returns from his four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
"We really complement each other extremely well, to be honest, more than I even expected as we came in here," Doyle said. "It's going to be a lot of fun working with him. It's going to be an advantage for us both."
Ebron believes this offense will help him, too, which is why the season-opener, Sept. 9 against Cincinnati, can't come soon enough.
"I just bring a little bit more versatility to the offense and I do a couple things a little bit different (than Doyle)," Ebron said. "Me and Jack are here to work side by side and I think that's going to be something to really watch and something that's exciting that I'm excited for. I'm sure the coaches are, too."
Notes: Doyle (personal reasons) was one of a handful of players who missed Tuesday's practice. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo and Denzelle Good, who is battling to start at right tackle, both sat out for a second straight day with hamstring injuries. ... Also out were rookie defensive end Tyquan Lewis (foot), cornerback Chris Milton (hip), center Deshawn Bond (concussion protocol). Right guard Matt Slauson was given an extra day of rest.
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Updated August 6, 2018