Lions offensive scheme could see some changes 1

2:12 AM 27 May 2013

English: The Defensive line, in 4-3 formation,...

English: The Defensive line, in 4-3 formation, is highlighted in red, and the offensive line is highlighted in green. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have written about how the Lions are going to have three new starters on the offensive line, and some of those consequences. The offensive line will have some ups and downs this season. They are not going to gel from week one, and the Lions offensive scheme could see some changes.

The offensive line is a complicated creature, and as such, there is still much more to this story. One of the issues I have seen brought up by fans is the concern that Riley Reiff might not be an adequate pass protector at left tackle. Some of these fans have expressed a desire to see the Lions bring in a veteran offensive lineman.

Thing is, while Reiff is stronger in the running game, his pass protection should be more than adequate. I was not one of those that thought the Lions should draft an offensive tackle in the first round of the draft, unless that was the best player available. I laid out my draft philosophy in the mock draft I did earlier this year, getting a defensive end with one of the first two picks the Lions had. I had thought the Lions would look at the future of the center position in this draft, but at this time bringing Raiola back is probably the best thing for this line to help in transition.

At right guard, Warford is a player that can move a little, get into the second level. He should help improve the running game.

We can probably say that Jason Fox will be the starting right tackle, but Corey Hilliard is still in the mix for that spot. Both are athletic and can move well, blocking in space. That’s crucial in the Lions offense, the tackles will be going it alone most of the time. This is also normal, as the center of any pocket is the most important part in a passing offense with a pocket quarterback like Matthew Stafford. Most of the double teaming will occur on the inside, as usual.

The thing is, the Lions like to throw the football. A lot. They set an NFL record with 740 passing attempts last season. That’s something we probably don’t want to see them do this season, not with three new starters on the offensive line, at least until that line plays together seamlessly as a unit.

With the acquisition of Reggie Bush in free agency, the Lions showed they are still committed to getting better at running the ball, and this season should give them the perfect opportunity to do so. Bush is going to be the main option, while I see Mikel Leshoure being that short yardage type pound it up the middle guy. I can see Joique Bell filling much the same role as he did last season, a back the Lions will use in space, primarily as an outlet receiver.

There have been a strong number of fans that want to see Bell get an increased load in the ground game, taking away snaps from Leshoure. I don’t see Bell as a between the tackles runner, though he does have the size. I’ll let my fellow writer take this one on, he is more versed on that topic.

Having said that, I don’t see a thousand yard rusher in this offense, at least this season, behind this new line. The ups and downs will also be felt in the ground game, but that still might be the road to travel at times.

I know, there will be those that continue to claim throwing the ball is the way to go, but an NFL record 740 passing attempts tells me otherwise. Sure, the Lions do need to throw the ball. As an offense, they also need to find balance and rhythm, something that has been lacking for years. With the prolific passing numbers put up by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the Lions have managed 14 wins in two seasons, a below .500 average of 7 wins per year.

Matthew Stafford spoke on the offensive line after the Lions second OTA(organized team activity) on Wednesday.

“We’ll see (how it changes the offense). We have to kind of get to know everybody and get the feeling on what guys are good at and what guys aren’t good at. Obviously, play to our strengths.

“You would think that having young guys in there would help with the athleticism, and I think it will, so I’m excited to see what they can bring.”

“I don’t expect a big change. I think we’re extremely talented up front and, obviously, right now, we didn’t even hardly work with the offensive line at all (today), just some stuff at the very end.

“But through OTAs and through minicamp, that kind of stuff will start figuring itself out, and we’ll be ready to go.”

It’s up to the coaching staff to figure out how to get the best out of these new linemen, and down the road I do expect the Lions to throw the ball as they have in the past. Having said that, this line will need time to gel, and having Stafford throw as usual night lead to him taking hits early in the season. If we see that happen, we must realize that the coaching staff can avoid those situations a little, it isn’t all on the new guys.

I think we can and should see a shift a little more to the running game, and more emphasis on the short and intermediate passing routes. The end-around should also become more prominent in the offense this season. These new guys can all move well.

 

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