Detroit Lions: Is Joe Lombardi the Answer?


In the Detroit Lions loss to the San Diego Chargers, a lot of people have questioned the usage of Calvin Johnson

Following the game, there was a lot of chatter on social media. Most of it was asking “Why wasn’t Calvin Johnson targeted more?”

Well, the answer is quite simple, and it all involves developing Matthew Stafford further as a quarterback to make better passing decisions. That, and the fact that they want to keep Calvin Johnson as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

If you watched Stafford’s postgame interview, he stated that he was making passes that the defense was giving him and Calvin was double covered with one over the top and one underneath for most of the game.  He was taking the shots that were given to him. And, that shows in the fact that seven players were targeted in his completed passes for the game.

In an effort by Joe Lombardi to help further develop Stafford, he is given the mentality of “If there is double coverage, that receiver is no longer an option”. In my opinion, this is smart coaching. This will further Stafford along to becoming an even better quarterback.

Now, I know what you are all thinking, it’s Megatron, he can go over the top of three receivers and catch a ball. While this still stands true, it is also what has led to Johnson being banged up as much as he was last season and the season prior as well. They want their most dangerous receiver to play for them all season. When the opportunity presents itself, he will get the ball and be making plays, rest assured. They are just trying to limit the dangerous throws that can end up with an injured Calvin and possibly have him missing games.

In Sunday’s game against San Diego, Stafford threw 19/30 for 246 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. That’s a 63% completion and led to an 83.5 quarterback rating. While it’s not the best, it’s certainly not the worst. We can all remember games where he had 50% or fewer completion percentages. One interception came when he was blindsided by Melvin Ingram on a big hit as he was just moving forward with his pass.

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Let me break that down a little bit, before you say the line blew their blocking assignments. In an article by Dave Birkett with the Detroit Free Press, both Manny Ramirez and Cornelius Lucas were interviewed. In the short of it, San Diego got one up on us on that play. They came in showing blitz, Stafford went to the line to check out of the protection, and at the last second, the Chargers defense switched back up and double covered Calvin, who was the intended target that time on a hitch and go route since they were showing single coverage. Bottom line here is that the Chargers did to us, like we do to so many teams on defense. We will show one coverage look and at the last minute, switch it up, and force a play. The blitz never came, and the blocking for the blitz allowed  Ingram a straight shot at Stafford before he even knew he was there.

So, with all of this subject matter, I am going to give Lombardi a pass here.

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But, there is one thing I would like to see out of Lombardi’s play calling, not like it matters what I think, but some more high tempo offense.

This offense that the Detroit Lions have built, with the receivers like Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Lance Moore, and Eric Ebron, combined with the backfield of Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah as passing threats, we have some serious power there.

With a high power offense, you want to see up-tempo play calling since they tend to thrive in it. As you saw in the game during the two-minute drill, the offense moved the ball at will. We have the running game to turn to so we can keep it mixed up. So, why not, in times where the offense is struggling, do as the Chargers did to us, kick the tempo up a notch, run a few no huddle plays and go for that first down and then some? Granted, I am not a coach and merely a spectator, but that would make the most sense to me.

Nov 27, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi during the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Detroit won 34-17. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, I feel Lombardi, after learning a lot of the information I have today, is actually doing a pretty fine job. He has to learn to not be afraid to throw it up to Calvin once in a while in double coverage, though and learn to change the pace of the game when we start stalling.

One thing that definitely can’t happen again, is leaving the defense on the field for nearly 40 minutes a game, especially in sweltering heat like that, when the opposing team is running an up-tempo offense and not giving us a chance to swap out players to keep them fresh.

Hopefully, the players and the coaches learned something from this game, and I’m sure they have, and will use it to better themselves in the future. In the whole realm of things, this was game 1 of a 16 game season. The sky is not falling. The season is not over. This is just the beginning of the seasons journey and these guys are professionals. They will adjust and learn to do what they do best given the situations at hand, you can count on that.

Now, on to Minnesota to prepare for the Vikings.

Mark DeGain is a columnist for of the FanSided Network. For further Detroit Lions news, rumors and analysis, be sure to follow him on twitter at@SLR_Mark!

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