New head coach. Check. New offensive coordinator. Check. Rookie quarterback, rookie tight end, 30th ranked offense in the NFL.
Former offensive coordinator Jim Colletto preached his desire to have a balanced attack-and balanced they were. The Lion offense finished in the bottom-third in the NFL in passing yards (24th), rushing yards (30th) total yards (30th), points per game (27th), third down conversion percentage (31st) and turnover margin (28th).
If that's not balance, I don't know what is.
Enter Scott Linehan. Make no bones about it, the Lions are going to run the ball. Under Linehan, St. Louis running back Steven Jackson had 346 rushing attempts in 2006.
Before his stint in St. Louis, Linehan boosted the 29th ranked offense to 14th in 2005, behind a rushing attack that jumped from 31st to 12th.
That's well and good, but the Lions don't have a vintage Orlando Pace, a Pro-Bowl Tory Holt, or even a Marc Bulger. The Lions version of the Greatest Show on Turf will feature Calvin Johnson, Jeff Backus, and Daunte Culpepper (with rookie Matthew Stafford waiting in the wings).
Linehan and Culpepper worked together in Minnesota from 2002-2004; arguably the best years of the 32-year-old quarterback's career. That, of course, was before Culpepper's slew of knee issues and lackluster stints in Miami and Oakland.
So what can we expect from the 2009 Lion offense? They're gonna pound the rock.
Hey, the Rod Marinelli era may be over, but classic quotes never die.
They're going to need to run the ball effectively in order to protect an aging veteran in Culpepper and an inexperienced youngster in Stafford. With the biggest weapons-and question marks- placed squarely in the passing game, expect a simplified playbook featuring heavy doses of Kevin Smith.
If they can maintain some effectiveness in the running game, the Lions can check off one more thing from their 2009 offseason laundry list.