Offseason program should make Lions offense even more explosive in 2012

Posted Apr 15, 2012

As good as the Lions offense was in 2011, it could be exponentially better in 2012 with more than two months of extra work this offseason.

A big reason the Lions won 10 games in 2011 and made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years was because it featured the league’s fifth-ranked offense. Only the Saints, Patriots, Packers and Eagles averaged more yards per game than the Lions a season ago.

Let’s not forget that same offense had no offseason to prepare for the 2011 season and played the final 11 games (including the playoffs) without either of its top running backs.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford’s ascension to elite status, and receiver Calvin Johnson having one of the best seasons for a receiver in NFL history, was a big part of the Lions’ success on offense last year.

So, what can we expect from the offense this season with nine extra weeks of preparation and a full training camp?

“I’m just talking from an offensive standpoint, but I think that can help us to be even more explosive and dynamic on offense,” tackle Jason Fox said. “It will give us the time to look back at what we did last year and the things we did well and the things that we can build on.”

The Lions return all 11 starters on offense as well as offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. They’re also expecting the return of running back Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best, who missed 28 games between them last year.

Leshoure missed his entire rookie season because of a torn Achilles tendon and Best missed the last 11 games because of concussions.

Leshoure told in March that he expects to be 100-percent for training camp, but could possibly participate in some OTA’s next month a limited fashion.

Best has been working out since December and will take part in the training program beginning tomorrow.

It shouldn’t be understated how important the offseason training program, organized team activities (OTA’s) and mini camps will be for players like Leshoure and second-year receiver Titus Young.

Young pulled a hamstring early in training camp last year, which put him on the sidelines for the first few weeks of camp and seemed to affect his performance early in the year. Young didn’t have a touchdown through the first seven weeks of the season, but finished with six through his final nine games.

During a town hall meeting with season ticketholders last month, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz partly attributed Young’s injury and struggles early in the season to not having an offseason.

“(Second-year players) are in a position to benefit the most from this offseason,” Schwartz said.

Players report for the offseason training program tomorrow and that means the offense has the next nine weeks to get into shape and get further into the playbook and scheme.

“I’m sure (coaches) have added something and it’s a chance to get a head start on processing new orders and new run plays and new schemes and new pass protections,” tackle Jeff Backus said. “If there are new wrinkles you can get comfortable with them and you can hit the ground running instead of installing new stuff in training camp.”

As good as the Lions offense was in 2011, it could be exponentially better in 2012 with more than two months of extra work this offseason.