Watching last season’s training camp sessions, one thing became abundantly clear: The Lions passing game would focus on short and intermediate pass routes almost exclusively in 2010.
I define an intermediate pass route as 10 to 19 yards in depth.
When Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was questioned about the lack of deep balls in camp drills, he replied “It’s absolutely essential that our receivers execute these short routes. That’s why we pay so much attention to them.”
This makes sense as the Lions like to run a ball-control type of offense. Keep those chains moving, baby!
The QB seldom holds the ball for three seconds in the Lions passing game.
According to Pro Football Focus, in 2010 Lions QBs attempted only 68 passes of 20 plus yards. Only 18 were completed, and the Lions posted seven TDs while giving up nine interceptions in the deep half.
Hmm. Kinda looks like the NFC North standings, no?
Is the fact that the Lions do not stretch the field a schematic phenomena, or is it a lack of credible deep threat receivers?
In 2011 the Lions will throw 20 plus yards:
Obviously, it’s the latter. Between them, Bryant Johnson and Derrick Williams made one catch (24 yards in Week 1) of 20 plus yards.
Now comes rookie WR Titus Young, who is built to stretch the field. Young will strip the double coverage off of Calvin Johnson in the deep half as a credible threat. A threat that must be accounted for by defenses on every play.
When Calvin Johnson signs his whopping new free agent contract in 2012, he should acknowledge Young’s contributions that will certainly make him more productive.
The other factor that will enable the Lions to stretch the field is a credible rushing attack. With the addition of rookie RB Mikel Leshoure, it will be extremely difficult not to maintain a safety in the box.
That safety will be wasted against a vertical passing attack. Double coverage is no longer possible when there is a home run threat from anywhere on the field.
I will watch with great interest to see how the Lions offense adjusts to it’s new weapons of mass distraction. That ball control offense will undergo some tweaking, I’m sure.
The 2011 season might be remembered as the year of going deep.
Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.