Look For a More Diverse Detroit Lions Offense in 2014


After another disappointing end to the year for Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions, it was obvious that changes needed to be made. Over the years the Lions defensive unit has received the bulk of the blame from fans, mostly because of the secondary’s display of ineptitude. However, last year’s failures were a full team effort, especially late down the stretch.

According to FootballOutsiders, the Lions’ offensive unit was their least efficient unit last year. Using their DVOA formula, they concluded that the Lions had the 19th-most efficient offense, 14th-most efficient defense and 14th-most efficient special teams unit.

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If I had a penny for every time I heard a connection between the Lions and having a top five offense, I’d have at least 10 dollars to my name. Sure, the Lions were top five in offensive yards for the third year in a row last year, but what does it matter when you have the 12th ranked scoring offense, and you’re tied for second with the most giveaways in the NFL?

What the Lions needed was a coach that could bring a winning culture to the Lions, hire some intelligent assistant coaches with a knack for innovation, and bring some needed discipline to one of the most penalized teams over the past five years. Luckily, Jim Caldwell meets all of those requirements.

So far, Caldwell has said all of the right things and has won the respect of the locker room from the moment he stepped in there. But of course, when you’re a Lions fan, the only thing that matters is wins and losses. Caldwell and company will need to prove their worth early before Lions fans go all-in on them.

Hiring former New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator was definitely a step in the right direction for Caldwell. Many reporters and fans alike wondered whether Lombardi would be bringing the Saints offensive playbook on the plane with him to Detroit.

“the playbook that we are starting from is the Saints’ playbook” – Lions OC Joe Lombardi

“There will be a lot of similarities (in reference to the Saints’ playbook),” Lombardi said following his hire. “You are going to see some differences, but the playbook that we are starting from is the Saints’ playbook, so it will certainly be very similar.”

So what can we expect to see from the Lions’ offensive unit next year?

Backfield Variety

If last year’s snaps are any indication of what we may see this year, then you can expect to see more two-back sets on offense, as well as a wider variety of players in the backfield.

 2013Snaps% of Possible Snaps
Pierre Thomas57850.1%
Jed Collins44938.9%
Darren Sproles36431.5%
Mark Ingram17315.0%

This will give guys like Mikel Leshoure and Theo Riddick plenty of opportunities to improve their stock, even if they don’t manage to beat out Joique Bell for that #2 spot. It will also go a long way for keeping Bush and Bell healthy and maintaining some fresh legs throughout the games.

 2013Snaps% of Possible Snaps
Reggie Bush62554.0%
Joique Bell56248.5%

Spreading the Ball

The Saints spread the ball out in the passing game much more than the Lions did last year. If you look at the tables below, you’ll notice that Lions wide receivers accounted for more than half of the team’s total receptions and reception yards, while Saints’ running backs actually caught more balls than their receivers.

Saints% of Team Rec.% of Team Rec. Yds.
Running Back38.3%24.1%
Tight End24.9%28.8%
Wide Receiver36.8%47.1%
Lions% of Rec.% of Rec. Yds.
Running Back29.9%23.2%
Tight End18.3%15.9%
Wide Receiver51.8%60.1%

Of course, there is no guarantee that these statistics will replicate themselves for the Lions in 2014, but it does give us some hope that we will see some more variation and innovation with our new-look offense. I dont know about you guys, but I was getting pretty tired of seeing the same shotgun draw play every first down.

Quotes via NFL.com