Aug 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson (13) is unable to make a catch while being hit by Cleveland Browns linebacker Craig Robertson (53) in the second quarter of a preseason game at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

‘Vanilla Offense’ No Excuse for Detroit Lions


The Detroit Lions offense has not been good through two preseason outings. There are a lot of reasons to be made for such a fact – limited snaps limits ability to get a rhythm going, Calvin Johnson not playing last night – but the one that just doesn’t sit right with me is blaming ineffectiveness on a “vanilla” brand of offense.

Most concerning of all, at least to me, is hearing that excuse come from a team leader like Nate Burleson:

“The good thing is you keep things pretty vanilla and basic and granola in the preseason,” Burleson said. “When you know that you haven’t opened things up, it gives you a peace of mind. That’s OK with us. It’s not OK that we didn’t execute, it’s just that we know we didn’t open up the playbook.

“We are good with where we are at, we just got to do better.”

Look, there isn’t anything wrong with keeping the playbook basic in the preseason. That makes sense on a number of levels but it shouldn’t ever be used as an excuse for poor performance. No matter what the scheme, however limited it may be, players have to execute.

If the offensive line is winning battles up front, there will room for the Lions’ backs to run. They didn’t, and there wasn’t.

Receivers need to catch the ball whether the offense is vanilla or rainbow sherbet.

Jim Schwartz has said it himself. In the preseason you want players, not scheme to win. Last night, the Cleveland Browns were simply better than the Lions and that isn’t acceptable for a team looking to prove that they are really more like the 10-6 playoff team of 2011 than the 4-12 disappointment of 2012.

Is it time to jump ship and expect a repeat of last year’s debacle? Of course not, but let’s not let the Lions off the hook by writing off some of the offensive troubles because they aren’t preparing or game-planning like they would in the regular season. Sure they are holding a lot back, but so too are opposing defenses. Think they are breaking out their exotic coverages? Of course not. The preseason is vanilla vs. vanilla and last night, the Lions’ vanilla wasn’t where it needed to be.

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