It’s a bit early to say exactly what the Detroit Lions’ offense will look like in 2021, given the team is still in the process of piecing together a roster that includes a new quarterback and an overhauled receiver corps.
But, there are at least some early hints the Lions will tailor things to incorporate more shotgun looks, something quarterback Jared Goff thrived using when he was coming out of University of California five years ago.
“You know, I’m still diving into what we’re doing with the Lions,” Goff said in an interview with NFL Radio this week. “I’m still downloading a lot of that stuff, and I’ve been communicating, obviously, with those coaches and trying to really dial into what we’re going to be doing and how our identity is going to shape out. I think time will tell on that.
“We’re going to have to get on the field, practice and try things out with new players and a new scheme,” Goff continued. “I think as far as it goes for me, I’m sure there will be some stuff that carries over, a lot of the play-action game will probably carry over. There’s a lot of stuff I did in college that I’d like to carry over, as well, some of the shotgun spread stuff that we did there. I know some of the stuff that the Chargers were doing last year had that involved. It will be a mix of that stuff and hopefully I’ll have some input on it.”
When you dig into the numbers on how Goff was utilized during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, and contrast that with offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn’s background as both a head coach and offensive coordinator, it suggests Goff will be under center less often, and will be less reliant on play-action passes, which were an integral part of the Rams’ scheme.
In 2020, the Rams had their quarterback taking the snap from under center 58% of the time. Only the Vikings and Titans, two run-heavy offenses built around star running backs Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry, were under center more frequently.
Worse yet, the Rams were concerningly predictable with their usage of the formation. When in shotgun, the team only ran the ball 9% of the time, the worst run-pass balance in the NFL.
As for Lynn’s Chargers, they were in shotgun 65% of the time, matching the league average. They were also near league average with their balance, running the ball 22% of those snaps.
As for play-action, Goff went from using it sparingly in college, where he primarily worked out of the gun, to utilizing it more than any quarterback since taking over as the Rams’ full-time starter in 2017. In the past three years, he’s run a play fake more than a third of his dropbacks.
Again, contrast that with the offenses for Lynn’s teams. Last year, Chargers rookie Justin Herbert utilized it 26.6% of his dropbacks. And during Lynn’s one year as an offensive coordinator with Buffalo in 2016, starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor ran play action on 20 percent of his snaps.
Herbert and Taylor are dual-threat options, while Goff is more of a pocket passer. That could explain the difference, but even when Lynn had Philip Rivers, the Chargers’ play-action rate was consistently around 20%.
The nice thing about Goff for Lynn, is the coordinator is inheriting a quarterback capable of performing well in either setup, providing flexibility to weekly game-planning.
“I think I’ve added a lot of things,” Goff said during his introductory press conference this week. “Being under center a lot is something I never really did in college or in high school, really. I started doing that in the NFL. I think for the majority of my career with the Rams, we were as good as it gets throwing the ball under center. So, it’s a tool I’ve added over the last five years and a tool that I want to continue to add to. But yeah, I feel comfortable from shotgun and under center. Shotgun is really what I did growing up, but I’ve become really comfortable under center.”