Eric Ebron's injury exposes Lions' lack of depth at tight end

DETROIT -- Detroit Lions tight end Orson Charles wanted to head back up to the locker room to check on Eric Ebron. Other players were equally bothered to see Ebron go down on the Ford Field turf Saturday morning in the middle of the team’s mock game.

Ebron grabbed his right leg. He was looked at by trainers and eventually carted off the field. Just seeing him go down was rough for the Lions, even though it isn’t clear how bad his leg is injured.

“It’s devastating,” tight end Matthew Mulligan said. “Any time you see one of your guys go down, especially a guy you’re so close with because you’re in the same room, it’s awful.

"You feel for him because you know how much work guys put in because it’s not just now. It’s not just training camp. It’s not just practice. It’s all year round. So to have injuries and have things come up, it’s a terrible situation.”

It isn’t clear how serious Ebron is hurt, although he did tweet a couple of hours after his injury thanking the fans for their support Saturday.

But if Ebron is out for a while, it could really hamper the Lions offense at a time when Ebron appeared to be breaking out. He had been consistent all training camp and caught a nice 30-yard reception down the seam Saturday before his injury.

If he does miss time, Detroit’s top three tight ends from last season will all be injured. Besides Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew is still on the PUP list recovering from a torn ACL, and Tim Wright is already on injured reserve this season with a torn ACL.

That would leave the Lions with Mulligan and undrafted free agent Cole Wick from Incarnate Word as their top two tight ends.

“I don’t know anything about what’s going on with him, but if I gotta play a little more, it’s fine,” Wick said after practice Saturday. “Hopefully he’s back and ready to go and he’s in good shape.”

Beyond Mulligan and Wick, the Lions have Charles and undrafted rookies Adam Fuehne and Ben McCord.

None of those five options can replicate what Ebron brings to an offense athletically and as a mismatch.

Charles last caught a pass in the NFL in 2013 and has nine career catches for 109 yards. Mulligan had one reception for Buffalo last season and has never caught more than eight passes in a season. He has 17 catches for 162 yards since entering the NFL in 2009. Wick, McCord and Fuehne haven’t played an NFL down.

Some tight ends potentially available in free agency are Owen Daniels, Matt Spaeth and former Lions Dorin Dickerson and Joseph Fauria.