The Detroit Lions’ Brandon Pettigrew endured a tough season last year.  He was plagued by injuries and a case of the drop-its.

Pettigrew had a drop rate of 13.24%, dropping nine balls out of 68 catchable passes according to profootballfocus.com.  Pettigrew’s rate was third worst in the league.

Now drops aren’t the worst thing in the world.  In fact, many elite pass-catchers lead the league in drops due to the volume of targets. 

With Pettigrew, however, the fantasy damage is increased by the lack of TDs.  He has never scored more than five touchdowns in a season.

While Detroit obviously has Calvin Johnson who eats up lots of red-zone targets, Pettigrew must assert himself in the middle of the field.  This will have the dual effect of drawing coverage away from Megatron and open up the field.

Pettigrew’s success is integral to the success of the Lions offensively. With that being said, here are five reasons why he will bounce back strong from his disappointing season last year.

High Target Volume

Pettigrew is one of the league leaders in targets and the Lions are known for their high-powered offense.  This high volume will allow him plenty of opportunity to bounce back and succeed.

The Lions need to get back to basics.  In 2011, they used Pettigrew as their secondary option and let him loose.

Last season, too much time was dedicated to finding the secondary receiver opposite Calvin Johnson.  This season, just throw the ball to Pettigrew whenever he is open and reap the rewards.

Fitter and Lighter

Of course, this leads us to the next point.  Brandon Pettigrew is in much better shape and is fitter and lighter.

According to Larry Hartstein, Pettigrew is down 10 pounds from his weight last season of 255.  The goal is to be quicker and get down the field faster.  This will allow his cuts to be crisper and allow him to attack the ball while in the air.

Remember that this is a contract year for Pettigrew so he has a little incentive to produce.  Now whether the Lions should invest in a player who only gets fit during a contract year is another question entirely.

It could also be said that Pettigrew’s injuries may have been in part to him being out of shape and overweight.  But hopefully now that he is in shape those problems will go away and he will have a bounce back year.

Injury Free

The one factor that is outside Pettigrew’s control is his health.  As we have seen from these first few weeks of training camp, you can’t avoid injuries in the NFL.

All you can do, though, is get in the best shape possible and put yourself in a position to succeed.  It would appear that Pettigrew has recognized that he needs to put in the work to not just be good but to be great.

This realization is a big step for a young player and that maturity will serve him well moving forward.

New Coach

Another big reason will be the new coach on the Detroit Lions staff.  No, Jim Schwartz hasn’t been fired.  I’m talking about Bobby Johnson, the new tight end coach.

Johnson helped Mercedes Lewis to a Pro Bowl season in 2010 and now hopes to turn around Brandon Pettigrew’s career as well. 

Johnson and Pettigrew are working on their fundamentals.  Johnson has summed up his philosophy saying:

"I also believe when I'm teaching fundamentals to make whatever drill or whatever situation you're setting up to be as game-like and as difficult as possible. My philosophy has always been ... I want to put that player in a controlled drill or situation that is potentially the most difficult situation they can find themselves in.”

Practice makes perfect.  As Brandon Pettigrew begins his fifth season in the NFL, he is ready to bounce back and build upon his 2011 career numbers.

Matt Stafford

The final reason for Pettigrew’s resurgence will be Matthew Stafford.  Stafford is fresh off a new contract extension and hopefully the added stability will restore him to the 2011 heights.

Stafford threw the ball 723 times last year but threw for fewer yards than in 2011 when he “only” threw it 663 times.  The biggest problem was that the Lions had no running game.

Detroit now has Reggie Bush.

This will allow Stafford to thrive and once again succeed.  Stafford’s success and Pettigrew’s success are intertwined (even if their contracts aren’t).

These five reasons are why I think that Brandon Pettigrew will bounce back.  I think that he will once again be a top 10 tight end—a far cry from his initial rankings in the 20’s. 

There are only three tiers in the fantasy tight end world: Jimmy Graham/ Rob Gronkowski, the startable TEs, and the rest.

Pettigrew falls into the middle category.  If you don’t get Graham or Gronk, take the TE who has some upside and the potential to be a top 10 TE.

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