By Ashley Scoby
Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is confident the team is cloaking its tendencies, and says that other teams’ play-tipping has not been a huge issue.
David Bruton Jr – the Broncos safety who intercepted Matthew Stafford on Sunday – probably didn’t know how much he would stir up when he said that he had read the Lions’ formation and knew he could intercept the pass that Stafford would throw. But the debate has swirled in Detroit this week over how much teams know about their opponents’ offensive plays on any given night, as well as how much blame for a bad offense should lie with the players’ execution, and how much with the play-calling.
According to Lombardi, the Lions keep “detailed self-scouts” that point out some of their tendencies on offense. Once those tendencies start showing up (“after a game or two”), the offense then tries to “even them out” by getting rid of the predictability and trying something new. For example, Lombardi said, if the team has been passing too much with their three-by-one personnel, then they will try to run it more out of that formation next week.
“The biggest concern is always teams that are signaling at the line of scrimmage, maybe teams stealing a signal,” Lombardi said. “So you try to have a few signals that mean the same thing. So that’s usually the biggest concern from an offensive standpoint.”
The Lions are 27th in the league in total offense heading into Week 4. And although Lombardi said it was a pretty normal occurrence for teams to steal signals on occasion, he doesn’t think it’s been a huge part of why Detroit has struggled on the offensive side of the ball this year.
Against the Chargers, Lombardi said San Diego actually was able to figure out one of the Lions’ signals, albeit on a play that ended up as a completion for the offense.
“There was a play where, it was probably Golden (Tate), he came off against the Chargers and said, ‘Hey, they knew what that signal was,’” Lombardi said. “Well, we completed that ball.”
For any given play, the Lions may have three or four different signals for it. Lombardi used that play against San Diego as an example of why sometimes, even when defenses know what’s coming, they still have to actually physically stop the play.
That jives well with what head coach Jim Caldwell has been saying – mainly that too much blame is being placed on the play-calling, and not enough on the lack of execution by the players.
“It comes down to execution. But you don’t want to be completely predictable, so there’s certainly a balance there,” Lombardi said. “If you do something new every play, your players probably won’t be good at it, and if you do the same thing every play, the defense will probably be good at stopping it. So it’s creating balance.”