Allen Park — Over the first few days of Lions’ training camp, one scene has been notably lacking — deep shots down the field.
Granted, Friday marked Day 3 of training camp. The Lions have a new coaching staff and are installing a new playbook. And the sample size is small with quarterback Jared Goff taking limited reps.
But of the few long-distance throws that have been attempted during full-team work, many haven’t been connecting. Rather, many of Goff’s completions during the 11-on-11 portions have come on short passes and checkdowns to the running backs.
Despite the early appearances, Goff insists that won’t be the case when the regular season rolls around.
“I love to take shots,” Goff said Friday. “I know we’re going to call a bunch of them, and I hope to throw a lot of them.
“Of course, it’s based on what they (opposing defenses) give us, but it’s also based on what type of game do we want to make it. For all intents and purposes, I think we expect to throw the ball down the field, and we’ll have some of that in the game plan every week.”
Over the past couple seasons, Goff’s vertical air yards per pass attempt have been trending down. During his second Pro Bowl season with the Rams in 2018, he ranked 10th in average pass length (8.67 yards) and seventh in average pass length per completion (7.04 yards) out of 33 qualifying QBs.
Those numbers dipped to 7.71 yards and 6.06 yards, respectively, the following year, ranking 23rd and 16th out of 32 qualifying QBs. Then last season, Goff was near the bottom of the league with an average pass length of 6.5 yards and average pass length per completion of 4.86 yards.
“It all depends. It changes every game,” Goff said, when asked about last year’s numbers. “There’s a million different factors that go into it. I hope to throw it down the field a lot this year.”
The Lions completely revamped their receiving corps during the offseason, letting leading receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. walk away in free agency. They replaced them with a pair of speedsters and vertical threats in Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams, who could help stretch the field and open things up for offense.
However, it hasn’t materialized given the offense’s uneven performances during full-team work, something Goff attributed to a “little rust” that still needs to be knocked off.
Regardless, coach Dan Campbell said he has liked what he has seen from Goff’s start to camp.
“He’s been good. You can just see him from where we were in the spring to now, you can see how much more comfortable he is and how much more he has taken ownership of his offense, which is what we want,” Campbell said. “We want him to feel like — listen, dialogue, communication, ‘Is there something you want, or you feel like we could do better with?’ We take it. Sometimes we’re like, ‘No, this is why we want to do it.’
“We want it to become what is best for him and his vision, as well as ours. He’s been great, he really has. You can see him grow inside the offense.”
When it comes to what Goff visualizes for the offense, Campbell said, like every quarterback, there are certain things Goff prefers and does well. It’s an ongoing process that will continue to evolve as the Lions climb deeper into camp.
“He loves progressions. He loves progression reads. He loves throwing it downfield, he really does,” Campbell said. “A lot of that comes with run play pass, things of that nature. … Right now, we’re going to throw everything at them for four days. Then we start back over once we get the pads on (next week). So now it’s back to one and you can really start to dig in deeper into the playbook and open up some stuff. We’re not in the world of true shot plays right now. We got throws downfield and things of that nature. I just think there’s certain things that he’s comfortable with and so we’re trying to give him those things.”
For a quarterback on a new team with new teammates in a new system, Goff said he’s taking a give-and-take approach. He’s letting the staff know what he likes and wants implemented while listening to what the coaches have in mind for the offense and finding a way to mesh it all.
“We’re working on it together,” Goff said. “It’s a collaborative effort every day. Every day is a step forward, every day we’re getting better, every day we’re getting more on the same page. As time goes on, I’m sure we’ll feel really good about it, but every day is a work in progress.”