The 2009 Detroit Lions: New Formations in Town

Michael MrockCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 09:  Kevin Smith #34 of the Detroit Lions runs the ball as teammate Calvin Johnson #81 defends against Rashean Mathis #27 of the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 9, 2008 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Jacksonville defeated Detroit 38-14.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Now that the Detroit Lions are under a new coaching staff, it is apparent for the success of the franchise that they call a different playbook from what was done in the prior regimes.  There is no way 0-16 will be forgotten if the Lions do not change how the personal on the field deal with the opposing team.

The recent draft helped with this overhaul of the franchise in the additions of Matthew Stafford, Brian Pettigrew, Louis Delmas and Derrick Willams.  The Lions also acquired veterans  Larry Foote, Julian Petterson, Grady Jackson and Philip Buchanon to shore up one of the worst defenses last season. 

The key to these new players and returning veterans to the Lions is a playbook that will be based on these players strengths.  These strengths are not just in their playing skills but also their intensity as players in the NFL.


Now with the quarterback situation involving Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford. Culpepper played in Minnesota with the new Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. 

While there, they were able to put on a show with someone that Calvin can be compared to in talent—Randy Moss. Matthew Stafford on the other hand was brought in for his passing skills as well as a swagger that hasn't been seen in a long time in Detroit.

The focal point that will define the Lions' offense this season will be Calvin Johnson.  Calvin is one of the best receivers in the game which is impressive when he played for the Lions during the prior era who didn't allow him to engage the afterburners enough to paydirt.

Therefore the offensive strategy will be lighting up the scoreboard with giving the ball to Calvin. The plays in the past were a lot of short passes.  Now it is time for going long.  Culpepper and Stafford have strong enough arms to go deep to have Calvin race and outjump the smaller defensive backs. 

However for the Lions to be able to trick the defenses to open up Calvin will be a change in technique.  In the past Lions quarterbacks would a three step drop and try and pass.  Everyone out there was able to defend it as the defenses were able to collapse the offensive line. 

A great deal of passes thrown short and numerous interceptions resulted from such a basic technique. 

Therefore the new plan should be frequently rolling out on bootlegs.  This technique will prevent the defenses from reading the offensive scheme of the Lions which in the past was easily read and defended.  The mobility of a lighter Culpepper and a young Stafford should not have a problem rolling out draw the defenses from their original plan of attack.

The other strategy to properly use Calvin's talents is the reverse.  Calvin's speed is so ridiculous that when he has done the reverse in the past, he has defenses freaking out.  This play will serve the "Wildcat" role for the Lions.

The actual Wildcat formation should be avoided at all costs for the Lions.  It is exciting to watch because it is a trick play, but once a defense can key in on it, the formation quickly loses its point.  The Lions are not far enough long in personal to risk injuries and turnovers on such a trick play. 

The other receiver spots which could include John Standeford, Bryant Johnson, Keary Colbert and Derrick Willams will also have some of the passes their way. However the formations need to be explosive in that the short passes should not be overused as in the past seasons.  They need to go long in this new offense or it will be more of the same.

The use of the tight end on receiving plays should not be a major strategy for the Lions.  Brian Pettigrew and the others tight ends will need to be blocking first and catching last.  The quarterback needs to be protected at all costs to get the receivers the ball. 

The running backs need the lead blocking on the outside so they can be affective in gaining yards, possible scores and keeping the time of possession in the Lions favor.

The running plays will have to be run both outside and inside.  Kevin Smith and Maruice Morris will get a bulk of the carries.  The running back by committee is a better strategy to prevent fatigue and injury especially in a team that has to erase the past season's results. 

They will incorporate a combination of inside draws and outside sweeps to keep defenses on their toes.  The presence of the fullback will have a role in the short yardage up the gut plays and once in a while get some carries.


The new look Lions on defense could either run the 3-4 or 4-3 with the talent they have.  However the 4-3 will probably be better option as they need to stack the defensive line with a lot of weight.  New defensive coordinator Gunter Cunningham does have a great pool of talent to have a quality defense in 2009.

Defensive tackles Chuck Darby and the newly acquired Grady Jackson who are both well over 300 lbs. will try to manhandle any offensive line they deal with so no holes will open on the inside for runs. 

Since Jim Schwartz coached Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee last season, he will know how to make some noise with these tackles.  On the ends, Cliff Avril and Dewayne White will aid this forward push on top of the opposing quarterbacks.  

The linebacking corp will consist of Larry Foote, Julian Petterson and Ernie Simms.  Larry Foote with all the success with the Steelers will bring the maturity of being a champion to captain the defense.  With such a stalwart at the ILB position, Petterson and Simms will be freed up to either aid the D-line in blitzing or take on a roving role to make it difficult for the offenses to pick them up.

Also their mobility makes them well-suited to defend against the Wildcat formation which everyone wants to run now.

The new secondary for the Lions will be aided by rookie Louis Delmas as safety.  His reputation as a heavy hitter will give the defense someone who will make opposing teams hesitant to throw passes when Delmas lines them up for a Niklas Kronwall type of collision.

His role will not just be on coverage but also in the blitz where his speed will be difficult to block or move the play away from.

The experience of the newly acquired cornerbacks Philip Buchanon and Anthony Henry will give experience to a position that opposing teams have in the past been able to exploit.    Their experience will make them more than ready for the challenge to be in position either in zone or man to man coverage.


Derrick Willams was partly drafted for his kick and punt return talents.  He will need a good front to give him enough space to get up to speed.  However with the new rules that makes the wedge extinct, the Lions have incorporate a good system of mobile players who can make sure no one is free to take a shot at Willams on the return.

Zach Follet and DeAndre Levy will be expected to take on this role on returns and kickoffs until they can break into the linebacking roles.

The formations for the new look Detroit Lion in 2009 will have their work cut out for them.  However the talent present will be up for the challenge to make the Lions, a team that finished win-less last season, victorious in 2009.


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