By the Numbers: Breaking Down the 2016 Detroit Lions Offense

Sep 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The Detroit Lions offense huddles against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Lions won 39-35. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The Detroit Lions offense huddles against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Lions won 39-35. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

At this point in the offseason every professional football fan is entrenched in NFL Draft content, and every outlet is covering every aspect of it. That is all fine and dandy, but I am going to break out of that mold for this particular article. Instead, I’ll break down the season that was 2016 for the Detroit Lions, looking specifically at the offense.

Let’s delve into some pretty fascinating statistics and metrics from Detroit’s 2016 season. Disclaimer: I was not a math major in college, but most of the numbers I’ll be referencing were already calculated for me. So, we can all breathe easier.

For background information, I’ve recently discovered this awesome website called Sharp Football Stats. There are all kinds of charts, statistical breakdowns, visualizations, percentages and more. Needless to say, I’ll be referencing metrics from this site (and others) throughout the article.

The first thing I want to cover is the use of different personnel groups for Detroit’s offense last season. Breaking down personnel groups can sometimes get quite tricky when looking at offenses, but the most basic thing to remember is that personnel sets are usually referred to by numbers. The name of the offensive set is determined by the number of running backs and the number of tight ends on the field. For example, “11 personnel” would mean one running back, one tight end, and by default three wide receivers (subtract five offensive linemen and one quarterback to determine number of wide receivers).

Therefore, 21 personnel would mean two running backs, one tight end and two wide receivers, while 12 personnel would be one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. And so on and so forth. According to Sharp Football Stats, The Lions, not surprisingly, ran 11 personnel 76 percent of the time (787 snaps). The Lions brought out the 12 personnel on 95 snaps (nine percent of the time), which was the second most frequent set for the Cardiac Cats of 2016. Followed by 21 personnel and 10 personnel (five percent each). See visual below:

Breaking down the Sharp Football Stats tool even further, Detroit still ran the 11-set on 72 percent of the plays in the red zone, which is interesting. The team even stayed true to this formation 32 percent of the time while on its opponents’ one-yard line. The team only ran a zero wide receiver set on a mere three snaps all season long.

The next (extremely cool) football metric of interest from Sharp is the snap rate for wide receivers, running backs and tight ends (minimum 300 snaps on offense). From that group, the website shows that only Marvin Jones had the highest usage rate in 2016. Jones played 928 snaps, which accounted for 91 percent of the team’s total plays in the 15 games Jones participated in. Next was Golden Tate, who played on 84 percent of the snaps (916). Following Tate is Anquan Boldin (880 snaps), Eric Ebron (750), Theo Riddick (424) and Zach Zenner (346).

Having fun yet? If not, perhaps you’ll want to take a look at Matthew Stafford’s directional completion percentages. Overall, he completed 65.3 percent of his passes. From zero to 14 yards, he completed 71 percent of passes to the left and 73 percent in both the middle and the right sides of the field, respectively. For passes of 15 yards or more, Stafford completed 35 percent of deep passes to the left, 56 percent to the middle and 31 percent to the right. This section also shows directional completion percentage by down.

Honestly, there are so many other sections of the Sharp website I would love to discuss, but then we would be here all-day long. Instead, let’s just look at a few team and individual statistics for the 2016 Lions offense:

Notable Offensive Team Stats (NFL Rank):

Passing Yards (minus sack yardage lost): 4,111 (11th)

Rushing Yards: 1,310 (30th)

First Downs: 329 (15)

Third Down Conversions: 42.6 percent (eighth)

Points per game: 21.6 (20th)

Offensive Team Leaders

Passing: Matthew Stafford – 4,327 yards,, 24 TDs, 10 Ints, 93.3 rating

Rushing: Theo Riddick – 92 carries, 357 yards, 3.9 yards per carry, one TD

Receiving: Golden Tate – 91 receptions, 1,077 yards, four TDs

Touchdowns: Anquan Boldin – eight touchdowns

Is it just me, or is this stuff incredible? Just me? Oh, OK. At the very least, I hope you’ve learned something new from this article. As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments section.


-Like the SLR Facebook Page and Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanObleness