Small Positional Adjustments Might Benefit Detroit Lions’ Schemes

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Dave Birkett recently wrote a short piece about the idea Gunther Cunningham and the Lions have been playing around with to move defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh around on the defensive line. Suh has lined up as the left tackle along side Corey Williams for the majority of his career but did move around a bit as a rookie. In potentially related statistics, his sacks total fell from ten in 2010 to only four in 2011. Cunningham and the defensive staff believe that lining up Suh on the right side more often would help him get in to the backfield more often, and have been testing him out there in some of the OTAs.

This got me to thinking: if moving Suh six feet to the right has the potential to create sack opportunities, are there any other small adjustments the Lions could make in order to improve other areas of the game? The unpredictability would certainly be helpful to them, especially since their play-makers are no secret to their opponents. Here’s a few lineup change ideas of my own that could throw a wrench into the opposition’s game plans.

Jan 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) makes a catch defended by New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracy Porter (22) in the first quarter during 2011 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

Calvin Johnson to the slot
Lining Megatron up closer to the line of scrimmage is not a new notion to the coaching staff. In fact, he’s been successful from the slot in the past (week 7 for example, he caught 4 passes out of the slot for 53 yards against Denver). However, after the draft, I feel the Lions now have the kind of wide receiver depth it takes to line the big guy up in the slot position in three and four receiver sets more often. Lining a guy up on the inside sometimes can create mismatches, drawing coverage from a nickel or dime back, or even a linebacker on occasion, though not likely in CJ’s case in the future (the Broncos chose not to shift Champ Bailey over when Johnson lined up in the slot).

Where moving Johnson to the slot more often may become useful is two-fold in my eyes. First, he could be nearly unstoppable when the Lions need 7-10 yards on third down. A guy so big and quick, with superb route-running skills like CJ, can run that slant route and get open for the first down. He could also run the square out, crossing over the flanker’s route. The point is, he’ll have much more room to create separation laterally if he’s lined up closer to the tackle.

Moving him to the inside should also create big-play opportunities for guys like Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles. If Johnson were positioned in the slot, the safety should probably be paying attention to him rather than the quick flankers. With Young’s and Broyles’ kind of speed, there could be plenty of one-on-one matchups for the young receivers.

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Tags: Calvin Johnson Cliff Avril Detroit Lions Featured Jahvid Best Jeff Backus Mikel Leshoure Ndamukong Suh Popular Riley Reiff