Detroit Lions Offensive Film Review: Week Four

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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

The most troubling problem the Lions offense has had so far this season is the offensive scheme. Joe Lombardi has been incredibly stubborn and refuses to set the offense up to the rosters strengths. He is dedicated to his scheme and refuses to believe it has a problem. However it does have a significant problem, the Saints version of the West Coast offense only worked when they had an elite offensive line that gave Drew Brees a ton of time in the pocket and an explosive run game. The Lions offensive line might be the worst in the NFL and Lombardi has failed to make an adjustment. He also refuses to use the up-tempo offense that has been so successful at the end of halves. Its not surprising the no-huddle works better for the Lions, it forces teams into vanilla coverages and makes it very difficult for them to draw up the creative blitz packages that have been killing the Lions offensive line.

The blocking scheme has been an absolute mess so far this season, they can’t diagnose opposing teams blitz packages and have consistently allowed free rushers to crush Stafford. On the play above, Manny Ramirez gets fooled by the Seahawks stunt blitz. Swanson tries to switch assignments with Ramirez to pick up the rushing tackle and allows the linebacker to shoot through the hole right into Stafford face. Stafford is forced to just throw one up to Calvin and misses a wide open Tim Wright breaking free across the middle of the field. Again the Lions missed a huge opportunity because they couldn’t give Stafford a reasonable amount of time in the pocket.

The Lions love to use heavy sets where they bring in extra offensive lineman or tight ends. They were able to generate some push when they brought in Cornelius Lucas, but the predictability of these plays are going to kill them eventually. Every time they are in this package they run the ball and they continue to ignore their glaring personnel problems. It doesn’t matter how many big men you put on the field when they can’t run block, both Tim Wright and Cornelius Lucas are terrible run blockers yet they are being asked to open up holes against congested boxes. The play above is a perfect example, the Lions line up in a two tight end set and like always run the ball right up the middle. The line does a great job opening up the hole, but Tim Wright is asked to block Cliff Avril. Why are the Lions are asking Tim Wright, who is essentially a big slot wide receiver, to block one of the best defensive ends in football? Shockingly Tim Wright whiffs on the block and Arvil is able to clean up the play for a 1 yards loss. Again one player turns a big gain into a drive halting play, but this time the blame is completely on Lombardi. You have to know your personnel and understand that this isn’t going to work.

The play above is the first play of the Lions last drive. The coaches needed to draw up a successful first down play to take some pressure off Matthew Stafford. Instead Tim Wright is assigned to block Michael Bennett after Manny Ramirez tries to escape to the second level. He gets beat clean and Bennett is given a free shot at Ameer Abdullah. When it mattered most Joe Lombardi lined up a sub par blocker against a dominant run defender. This type of reasoning makes absolutely no sense, especially when you consider the fact he ran into a 7 man box with only 6 blockers (one being Wright). Logically you should understand this play isn’t going to work but for some reason the Lions continue to make the same mistakes.

Another problem the Lions offense has is a lack of identity. They have become way to reliant on constraint plays like screen or swing passes and it just adds to the predictability of the offense. Lombardi likes to try to outthink opposing teams with very little success, the play above is a great example. As soon as the Seahawks see Theo Riddick motion out they know he is running a swing pass and immediately cover that option. The Lions built in a backside screen pass for this exact reason, but none of the offensive lineman get into position to block for the screen pass. The result is another drive killing negative play. This play probably looks great on paper, but it doesn’t account for how hard it is for the lineman to get into position to make blocks halfway through the play.

Teams know the Lions use a ton of screen passes, they get sniffed out and shut down with regularity. To counter this Lombardi actually had one really creative play against the Seahawks. Seattle’s defense pursues hard on the fake swing pass (anytime the Lions motion a running back he is a running a swing route) and Lance Moore is able to sneak past their secondary. Stafford does a fantastic job selling the fake with his eyes and is able to hit Lance Moore with a strike down the field. This was great play design, but it came at the expense of countless blown screen plays before it.

The Lions offense is in serious trouble, they have a stubborn offensive coordinator who has shown very little signs of improvement. He is still struggling with the same problems he had last year and has shown zero ability to adjust to the Lions changing roster. If something isn’t done to improve this offense the Lions season will be lost and Joe Lombardi will lose his job. He has turned one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL into a train wreck and at some point enough is enough.

Next: Detroit Lions: Week 5 Injury Report

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