Last season, failures at the goal line bit the Detroit Lions in the butt more than a few times. To reach the playoffs in 2018, they’ll need to convert more.
Sometimes being top-10 in the league in something simply isn’t good enough. That was the case with the Detroit Lions when it comes to converting in the red zone.
Detroit’s offense got a touchdown after reaching the red zone 56.52 percent of the time, good enough for 10th in the league. Surprisingly, they converted better on the road than at home, scoring a touchdown 65 percent of the time on the road (4th in the league) compared to a mere 50 percent success from home (19th).
In a league of 32 teams, being ranked 10th in any category is rather respectable. But one could argue that for the Detroit Lions, it wasn’t good enough. They finished the season one game shy of the playoffs at 9-7, leaving the players and fans wanted more from a solid 2017 season.
One game from 2017 that will haunt the Detroit Lions will be their Week 8 game with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite leading the game at the half, the Lions had to settle for field goals at the red zone multiple times, including being stuffed inside the one-yard-line twice.
To avoid disappointing games like this in the future, new head coach Matt Patricia has made converting in the red zone a main priority. In the first two practices of training camp, Patricia had his team start the day with goal line drills to get the team as many reps as possible in the area.
Coach Patricia has been putting this team into these high-pressure situations, despite the fact that the team hasn’t put pads on yet. Patricia has been stressing the importance of getting in those mental reps before the pads came on on Sunday.
"“You want to start at day one and it’s a good opportunity to do it without pads,” Patricia told Justin Rogers of The Detroit News. “I know that kind of sounds backwards but that way you can really concentrate on the cerebral part of it, and then when you can get pads on then you can really push into the physical part.”"
Part of the reason the Lions didn’t really succeed at the goal line last season was because they never had a big, bruising running back that could get a yard or two in short yardage. That’s where new running back LeGarrette Blount comes into play.
The eight-year veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion look to bring a winning mentality to Detroit, as well as a great ability to get short yardage in clutch situations. Racking up over 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns over the past three years, Blount has a specialty for pounding the ball between the tackles and key experience in short-yardage situations.
The addition of Blount to the roster, as well as offensive line improvement and these practice goal-line reps, can combine to help the Lions improve in the clutch in 2018.
If the Detroit Lions can get up to top five, or even top three in the league in goal line conversion rate, that can push their offense to the next level and help them reach the playoffs. Hopefully all this hard work early in camp pays off come December for the Lions.