Why Detroit Lions’ running game could do some ‘damage’ under new OC Anthony Lynn

Detroit Free Press

The Buffalo Bills led the NFL in rushing in Anthony Lynn’s only season calling plays in 2016, and the star of that ground attack, LeSean McCoy, said he expects Lynn to have a similar impact on the Detroit Lions‘ offense this fall.

“I love Coach Lynn,” McCoy said Tuesday at Super Bowl LV. “I really do. He’s the type of guy that he’s going to teach discipline. The guys will be very disciplined. They won’t make a lot of mistakes. They’ll be mentally sharp. I think they will run the ball very well.”

Lynn, who was hired as the Lions’ offensive coordinator last week, played six NFL seasons as a running back but has been involved in a wide variety of offenses as a coach.

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Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn looks on from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

He called plays for 14 games 2016 — after Greg Roman was fired as offensive coordinator — when the Bills led the league in rushing yards (164.4 per game) and touchdowns (29) and finished second in attempts (30.8 per game).

As head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers the past four seasons, he oversaw a more pass friendly offense, though he did not call plays. The Chargers led the NFL in passing yards in 2017 and ranked in the top 10 each of the past three seasons.

New Lions coach Dan Campbell said he wants a matchup-based offense, but acknowledged in his introductory news conference his desire to be a dominant running team.

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Campbell has surrounded himself with run-centric coaches, including Lynn and assistant head coach Duce Staley, another former NFL running back who coached McCoy with the Philadelphia Eagles. And for now, at least, that seems to be the strength of the Lions’ offensive personnel.

The Lions traded Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday for quarterback Jared Goff and three draft picks. Their top three wide receivers from last season are all free agents, and two — Marvin Jones and the potentially retiring Danny Amendola — seem unlikely to return. And the Lions have a Pro Bowl center in Frank Ragnow, who leads an above-average offensive line, and an emerging young running back in D’Andre Swift.

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McCoy, who will play in his second straight Super Bowl on Sunday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said Lynn is “very creative getting (running backs) the ball in space,” which should bode well for Swift this fall.

Swift led the Lions with eight rushing touchdowns and a 4.6-yard-per-carry average as a rookie and tied for third with 46 catches. 

Lions running back D'Andre Swift runs the ball during the second half of the 37-35 loss to the Vikings at Ford Field on Sunday, January 3, 2021.

“They have a really, really good running back there now with Swift, who I’m a big fan of,” McCoy said. “They’ll get him the ball on the perimeter, mix it up inside, outside. They’ll do a lot of different things, I think, from what they did in the past. I think their offense will be pretty good.”

Perhaps even good enough to rank in the top half of the NFL in rushing, which is something the Lions have not done since 1998, Barry Sanders’ last season in Detroit.

“(Duce will) demand a lot of respect from his running backs,” McCoy said. “He’s one of the only coaches I ever had that got the best out of me. And I think the mixture of Coach Lynn and Duce will do some damage. I’m excited for them, I really am. I’m going to text them later on to congratulate them. I’ve been busy, but I like the mixture of them guys together.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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