Detroit Lions Preseason: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet; the First in a Series
I have been fortunate enough to get an intimate look at the team on the field at training camp. The observations I’ve shared with you from this experience have given us all some insights into what the Lions might look like during the regular season. Two preseason games validated my training camp observations, didn’t they?
Not even close.
In spite of my best efforts, it’s what we haven’t seen in the vanilla training camp sessions and preseason games that got me thinking about what the Lions coaching staff is cooking up.
Here’s my educated opinion as to what we will not see in the preseason but will see a lot of in the regular season from the Lions' offense.
Exotic Offensive Sets
I spoke with receivers coach Shawn Jefferson about this the other day. He admitted that we’ve seen all of the routes and the timing between the QB and receivers. It’s practiced ad nauseam.
Jefferson also stated that the Lions have just started game-planning for upcoming games and would begin the process of installing an offense that will not be showcased in the preseason.
We haven’t seen the “trips” offensive set, where the offense will flood one side of the field with three receivers.
We haven’t seen any four receiver offensive sets (empty backfield) in the preseason. No shifting of the running back to the outside.
The Lions have shown no two TE sets. Not even once. More on this later.
In fact, we have seen little that an opponent can scheme against with some cursory film study.
The Real Running Game
OK, I know how concerned you are with the lack of production from the running game. I’m smiling from ear to ear, albeit on the inside. Here’s why.
Think about what you’ve seen (and will continue to see) in the preseason. No running lanes and backs with happy feet. No draw plays.
The Lions use a man-power blocking scheme. This blocking scheme depends upon pulling guards and tackles at the point of attack. The ball carrier has to hit the point of attack (where there are more blockers than defenders) in order to make any meaningful gain.
It wasn’t until this week that I have seen pulling linemen in camp. Really!
The other thing that we have to remember is that different running backs require different timing with the O-line. The line knows Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris and, to a lesser extent, Aaron Brown.
The timing is developing between the line and Jerome Harrison. Mike Bell is coming along a bit slower. Ian Johnson has pretty much the same speed to the hole as Morris does. This would account for his higher success rate.
Don’t expect any line-blocking assignments that will “telegraph” the nuances of the running game to future opponents.
Play-Action Passing, Draws and the Bootleg
We have seen a couple of outstanding play-action passes by Stafford. One went for a TD to Nate Burleson in Cleveland.
Play-action by Stafford will happen more often than not in the regular season.
Effective plays that we haven’t seen are play-action draws, moving pockets and the bootleg. Expect none of this in the preseason but plenty thereafter.
Two Tight End Sets
I have not seen one play in camp or the preseason games where the Lions used a two TE set. Have you?
We’ve all heard it from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan: The Lions will feature two TE sets.
Two TE sets, also known as the balanced attack, puts the defense at a disadvantage. One safety will be isolated on a TE. But which one? The other safety must now “spy” on the other TE.
These mismatches will not be exploited until the regular season. Book it!
Up Next: the Defense
Put your thinking caps on and get out your Bozo Decoder Rings. I will dissect what we haven’t been privy to on the defensive side of the ball.
Everything about the defensive line, linebackers and secondary that you ain't seen yet.
Mike Sudds is a syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.