By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Lions made it all the way through the preseason without showing off the final product on offense. Between conservative play calling, injuries to starters, and shuffling of the offensive line, there is still a little mystery to exactly what the Lions will look like.
The offense that players expect to be one of the best in the country thanks to the return of indomitable wide receiver Calvin Johnson and the addition of dual-threat running back Reggie Bush looked disappointingly vanilla in the preseason, but that was hardly surprising.
Despite the mediocre showing, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is not worried.
“That’s not a big concern or anything,” Linehan said. “Preseason’s kind of like that. You see a lot of players in groups not playing a whole lot in a lot of other preseason games. A lot of that was Calvin was banged up a little bit in the preseason.”
Head coach Jim Schwartz seconded that view.
“There’s different agendas in preseason,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think anything we did in the preseason we can expect to carry over, whether that’s getting turnovers, protecting the ball, run, pass, anything, and that includes any struggles offensively, defensively or special teams.”
It is no secret that for many teams the goals for preseason are to evaluate players competing for spots and to avoid injury – not necessarily in that order.
Accordingly, Johnson played very little, and the offense looked deflated without him. Linehan essentially said that effect is expected.
“Calvin’s a pretty big factor in our offense, so we’re glad to have him back there ready to go,” Linehan said. “The other guys have done a great job picking up the slack in some areas we’ve asked them to, and I’m looking forward to watching them play Sunday.”
Of course, with someone as versatile and shifty as Bush, defenses might be in a pickle as far as whom to focus on – Johnson or Bush.
“We brought [Bush] here to be a difference maker,” Linehan said. “He runs all of our runs. There aren’t just certain runs we call for him and certain runs we call for other guys. He’s the primary tailback. And then we’ve got other guys that are going to do some things. Reggie just gives us kind of that dual back that has the ability to carry the ball when we call runs and catch the ball – and/or pass protect if he had to – when we call passes.”
Whether he’s running the ball – like he did for 986 yards on the ground in 2012 – or catching passes – catching passes – like he did for 292 yards last season - Bush is expected to be a significant part of the offense.
“Reggie’s going to touch the ball a lot,” Linehan said. “He’s the guy that you want to build you run game around, utilize as a match-up player in the pass game, and that’s not always be a guy that you take out because you want a running back to pass protect. He can do all those things. I just think as we go through we’ve got to kind of figure out how we target him. Some games it might be more as a runner and some games more as a receiver.”
All off-season, of course, the talk has revolved around how Bush can free up Johnson and vice versa. The difference this time is that both will actually play in the upcoming game, finally giving a glimpse at whether the offense will live up to the hype.