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Al Golden hopes to refine Eric Ebron’s game

The Detroit Lions need tight end Eric Ebron to live up to his own potential in the absence of Calvin Johnson.

Year Three of the Eric Ebron experiment has arrived, and the Lions need to get a real return on the tenth overall pick they invested in the former North Carolina tight end, who was taken while both Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald were on the board.

Former University of Miami coach Al Golden, who is now the tight ends coach in Detroit, knows it’s his job to get the most out of Ebron this season.

He’s very talented, and he’s explosive, and he’s strong,” Golden recently said of Ebron, via Davie Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s probably stronger than he was when he first arrived. He’s probably 256, 257, 258, in that range. So, he’s clearly strong. He’s explosive. I’m just trying to help him refine. I’m trying to help him refine everything.”

To do that, Golden hopes to get Ebron to challenge himself, with the operative term being “intrinsically motivated.”

“His challenge is not anybody else,” Golden said. “His challenge is how does he develop his game, how can we improve his process and what skills can we refine to make sure we get his talent into the game?” Golden added that, during offseason workouts, Ebron has improved from the perspective of “eliminating the clutter and just keeping his focus narrow and making his game tight.”

The Lions need it, with receiver Calvin Johnson gone.

"[W]e lost some production obviously on offense, so he knows that he’s got to be one of the components that keep that production where it was or increase it,” Golden said. “And I know he’s up to the challenge.”

As a rookie, Ebron caught only 25 passes in 13 games, for 248 yards and a touchdown. Last year, he increased his production to 47 catches for 537 yards and five scores. He’ll need to do a lot more in order to play his part in the effort to replace Johnson.