The Detroit Lions feature one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, but annually fall short of expectations. Expect that to change in 2014 thanks to the new coordinators Joe Lombardi and Teryl Austin and their new systems that they bring with them.
Detroit Will Feature A Four-Headed Monster At Running Back
Last season, the Lions had one of the best running back tandems in the NFL between Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. That tandem gave the Lions a much-needed 1,000-yard rusher and another versatile option out of the backfield who had 500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. Unfortunately, those numbers came at a cost. Bush started missing time as early as the second game of the season and Bell is still dealing with a lingering knee injury.
Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi during organized team activities at the team
New offensive coordinator knows the importance of keeping his players healthy from his time in New Orleans where the Saints deployed a four-headed tandem and that’s exactly what he will do in Detroit. The Lions had one of the worst running games two seasons ago, but that’s not the case now. With 2011 and 2013 draft picks Mikel Leshoure and Theo Riddick the Lions have two backups that complement their top two backfield options’ skill sets perfectly.
The ability to sub players into the back field will key for the Lions’ success in 2014, especially down the stretch where the Lions hope to be healthier there then they were last season.
The Lions Will Implement Multiple Defensive Fronts
The Lions were so generic on defense during the Jim Schwartz era it’s no wonder the team never saw drastic improvements in their production the last three seasons despite adding pass rushers in the first round three out of the last four drafts during his tenure.
Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin (center, right) holds up a play during mini camp at Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Instead of a basic 4-3 scheme while only rushing four down linemen, Teryl Austin will implement an open and closed side system with his defensive ends. Austin will blitz his linebackers and drop his ends back as well as staying in a traditional 4-3 defense and maybe even running a little 3-4 defense.
The dirty secret about the Lions’ defense is that they are actually pretty talented across the board, but they haven’t been used properly. Versatility is a weapon in the NFL and under Austin the defense will certainly be versatile.
Generating more sacks and different looks won’t only keep offenses guessing at what the Lions will bring next, but help a young secondary play on the fly. We’ve already seen what the effects Austin’s system has had on the defense early in camp. Players are playing with more confidence across the board and thus are playing substantially better.
That confidence should continue throughout the rest of the offseason and by dividends for the secondary’s development in 2014.