One of the key differences that have been noticed so far for the Detroit Lions is their pace with the ball on offense. After failing to find success with a deliberately slower pace under offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, the Lions have clearly been working on ways their offense can speed up the pace of the game.
Detroit started to make a few changes after Jim Bob Cooter took over the Lions offense midway through the season in 2015. Cooter has spent the offseason with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford rebuilding the entire offense, so it could be installed during camp and the preseason.
The new style of play will allow Stafford to make a lot of quick reads while scanning the field. The Detroit offense will be centered around Stafford’s ability to make fast, but intelligent decisions with the ball. The new offense should also be beneficial to the offensive line that will need to provide just enough protection for Stafford to make a quick decision.
The new approach has gone well for Stafford so far, demonstrated by his completing eight of eleven passes for a total of 113 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals last Thursday night. The biggest concern was eliminated by the level of both comfort and confidence Stafford was able to play with. Stafford wants the offensive group to become even quicker and thinks continuing to increase the tempo of the game will be a huge benefit for the Lions.
“It’s getting there. I still don’t think we are playing at the pace I would like us to play at,” Stafford told reporters. “I would like to be going a little bit quicker if we can. That’s on them, but on us as a team. I think they are doing a good job. Communicating better, that’s a big part of the offensive line and especially with some younger guys up front, they’ve got to be able to communicate, and they are obviously doing better at that,”
Even going back to parts of last season, Stafford has always appeared to have a higher comfort level when playing at a quicker pace. This is probably most evident in Detroit’s ability to move the ball more effectively during two-minute drills. With the hurry up offense, the Lions were more efficient and seemed to move the ball with much easier than during regular game situations.
The Lions are taking the steps they can to translate the team’s two-minute drill success from last season and applying it right out of the gate each game this year. They are not making as many personnel substitutions and getting in and out of the huddle much quicker than they have in the past. While this has led to clearly visible improvements for Stafford throughout his limited playing time during the first two preseason games, it’s yet to be determined if the offensive line will be able to keep up when it counts.