ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It all came at Joseph Fauria really fast last season, from training camp, where he was trying to find his way onto the Detroit Lions roster as an undrafted free agent, to learning a different way to play the position he excelled at during his college career at UCLA.
That’s part of the conundrum of playing tight end in a spread-type offense in college, where the tight end is essentially a larger wide receiver and not playing with his hand down or next to the offensive line. Blocking? It's essentially not required in that kind of offense. So while Fauria was trying to make the Lions in 2013, he also knew he had to learn something fairly foreign to him through no fault of his own.
In the NFL, blocking was going to be a requirement.
Fauria realized this early on as he began the season on the roster but the clear backup to Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. Then Scheffler suffered another concussion and was eventually released, while Fauria became a legitimate threat in the red zone, using his 6-foot-7 size and reliable hands to make a rookie impact.
Except Fauria, even then, stressed he wanted more. He knew his key to longevity in the NFL and to seeing more than red-zone snaps was to run his routes crisper and focus more on the part of the game he didn’t have to worry as much about before: his blocking.
This was his offseason focus -- and so far, so good for the second-year tight end.
“(I’m) a tremendous amount more comfortable, just because I’m not going from standing up the whole year in college to now just putting my hand down the whole time,” Fauria said. “Now I’m mixing it up a little bit, have a year under my belt and I know what to do as a pro.”
Yes, that includes blocking -- which Fauria handled well, opening up holes for backs to run through. Pro Football Focus gave him a positive grade on his run blocking, which the site said he did for 11 plays. He knows, though, his blocking will have to be consistent for him to be on the field more this season, especially with rookie Eric Ebron vying for some of his snaps.
But Fauria has shown throughout the first two weeks that he has improved at his perceived weakness -- blocking -- and still provides the reliable hands and large target he did during his rookie season.
Through a few weeks, though, Fauria looks like a more complete player than he was a season ago, and that should be expected. Unlike last season, he has less theoretical off-field stuff to worry about, so he can concentrate on what he needs to do to stay on the field during the entirety of games.
“More so not worrying about doing the numbers game, if I’m going to make the team or if I’m going to do this or if I’m going to do this dance of if I’m going to be able to stretch before practice because I don’t know the schedule because I’m a rookie,” Fauria said. “All those things kind of were messing my brain up a little bit because it was my first year in the NFL.
“Now I’m a veteran and I know what to expect and it just comes with me doing my job.”