If someone told me that Matthew Stafford would throw for 329 yards, complete 67% of his throws, throw 3 TDs and that Calvin Johnson would notch a career best, 12 catches for 207 yards and a TD on the road, my first reaction would be “Lions victory!”
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, as the Minnesota Vikings finished off a sweep of the Lions last Sunday. The Lions desperately need players not named Megatron to contribute more. And quickly, because the big and bad Green Bay Packers come to town this week.
Since Wednesday is the day position coaches give out the weekly game plan, I decided to do some quality control work. Something that has caught my attention while studying the Lions offense through the first nine games is the lack of production from the tight end position.
Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler have to be more involved in the game plan. Particularly this week vs a Packers team who will be without 3 of their 4 original starting linebackers. The Lions are 1-3 vs the Packers over the last 4 matchups. The only win came when Drew Stanton was at the helm, in a week 14 matchup December 12, 2010. I will leave that game out of this discussion due to the fact the Lions were 65% run to 35% pass that afternoon. I did however look over my notes from the 3 remaining games and found that the tight ends were heavily involved in the game plan.
In a week 4 matchup on October 3, 2010, Scott Linehan called 34 plays out of a total of 77 plays in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs). In that game, the tight ends had 14 catches for 154 yards on a total of 21 targets. In a week 12 matchup November 24, 2011, Scott Linehan didn’t call the tight ends’ number as much. The offensive coordinator called only 16 plays out of a total of 66 plays in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs). In that game, the tight ends had 6 catches for 40 yards on a total of 10 targets. In a week 17 matchup January 1, 2012, Linehan called on the tight ends once again. Of the 78 total plays that afternoon, 36 came out of 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs). The tight ends tallied 11 catches for 181 yards on 17 total targets. Pettigrew and Scheffler are primed for a big day if their number is called.
After looking over the first nine games of the season, the tight end production has not been there. Granted the insertion of rookie OT Riley Reiff into the lineup, as an extra tight end, has hindered the production, there is still no excuse. Across the board, the production from the tight ends in wins and losses are just about the same with the exception of yards gained. In the team’s four wins, the tight ends production stands at 53 targets, 30 catches, and 385 yards. In the team’s five losses, the tight ends production stands at 50 targets, 29 catches, and 250 yards.
With all the attention that Calvin Johnson receives, the tight ends should see very favorable matchups down the seams and in the hash area. They have to force defenses to account for them in the passing game. And Linehan has to do a better job of getting them in position to do so.
“You put a real tough tight end with good hands in the hash area, and there won’t be anyone who can cover him. Then you really control the passing game.” – Sid Gillman, father of the modern passing game.