The Lions will go to the air more frequently than many think
Today the NFL is a passing league. Even a coach like Dan Campbell that likes the physicality of running the ball down opponents’ throats understands that you have to be able to throw the ball to be a championship contender.
That doesn’t mean Campbell’s Lions won’t run the ball, but they will run the ball with purpose. Tiring out defenses and making them very aware of the ground game. It will also be the starting point of the passing game with plenty of play-action passes.
These are the points of emphasis in the Lions game-planning that we are probably all aware of. However, despite what many people believe, the offense won’t stop there.
If we rewind the clock to last season we need to remember that the Los Angeles Chargers with rookie Justin Herbert at the helm put the ball in the air to the point of Herbert setting rookie passing records across the board.
That was under the guidance of current Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Now granted there were some injuries in the Charger backfield, but whether by design or necessity Lynn’s offense is very capable of opening up and being very effective through the air.
That leads us to the cast of players that Lynn has at his disposal this season. It isn’t quite the same arsenal the Chargers sported, but even so, the Lions will not be a run the ball 80 percent of the time team.
As a matter of fact, I suspect with all the concentration circling the Lions run game, that after a bland pre-season of mostly running the ball, the offense will open up a little next season.
I’m not saying they will attempt to become the Kansas City Chiefs or even the Los Angeles Chargers, but I would suspect there will be a big aim towards balance. even if the Lions run the ball 55-60 percent of the time that still opens up passing the ball 40-45 percent of the time.
We should also be conscious of when they are running the ball. If the Lions have a fourth-quarter lead and can run the ball, should it be any surprise they will run the quarter out if they can?
When all is said and done, there is no question that the ground game is the strength of the Lions’ offense. They will certainly utilize it to its fullest potential. Yet despite questions in the passing game, the Honolulu Blue and Silver will go to the air much more frequently than many seem to believe they will.
Pounding opposing defenses will be a big part of the Lions’ pastime this fall, but attempting to be diverse and forcing the opposing defense to defend every blade of grass will be a philosophy that Campbell picked up from Sean Payton in New Orleans and is bringing to the Motor City.
The passing game certainly won’t be what we saw from this franchise for the last dozen years, but it won’t be covered in mothballs and tucked into storage either.