I don’t see it yet, but Anthony Lynn does.
Lynn, the Detroit Lions’ offensive coordinator, said Thursday he likes where his team’s passing game is at one week into training camp.
On this side of the lines, the Lions’ passing game seems modest, and I worry about the dink-and-dunk nature of what we’ve seen so far. Jared Goff, David Blough and Tim Boyle all push the ball downfield on occasion, but I’d guess the Lions’ running backs have about as many catches as their receivers at this point in camp.
Lynn does not see it that way, though. He was complimentary of Goff when he met with reporters Thursday and quick to point out that throwing downfield is just one element of the offense.
“All we’ve been doing is passing the ball,” Lynn said. “I mean, we’ve been doing this back in OTAs. I’ve seen plenty of deep balls down the field. I know Jared has a very talented arm. But out here on the field, I like some of the decisions that he’s making. He’s taking what the defense gives him and that’s what good quarterbacks do. They’ll just take what you give them and then they’ll go over the top when they’re supposed to. And that’s kind of the way I see us operating.”
The Lions do not have the personnel to be a 40-pass-attempt-a-game team, not that they want to be anyway.
Lynn stressed Thursday he prioritizes a balanced offensive attack, and any deep ball success the Lions have will be predicated on that.
“We’re going to have to run the football, obviously, and keep people honest that way, but we don’t want to be one-dimensional,” he said. “We got to be balanced, we got to do both and we have to take those calculated shots.”
The Lions do have the speed at receiver to challenge defenses. Tyrell Williams was a 4.4-second 40 guy coming out of college, and Breshad Perriman, for whatever his warts as a player, remains a physical freak.
Rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said he sees “huge potential” for the vertical passing game for another reason, too.
“I think we have huge big-play capability,” he said. “I mean, once you can run the ball, we have a great O-line, great running backs. Play-action passes is huge, so if you can establish a good run game, I think the shots will come later.”
The Lions open preseason play one week from Friday against the Buffalo Bills and perhaps we’ll learn more about their offense then. Lynn has no plans to empty his playbook, but he said he wants to see the offense running how coaches envision it before the real games begin.
“Right now, we kind of see ourselves in that run, run-action mode and I like to see us do that,” he said. “Move the pocket, move a little bit and just execute. Introduce these guys to new concepts. We’re not going to show everything, but just execute what we call.”
The Lions held a walk-through instead of a practice Thursday, which means there are no real observations to share. Instead, here are more highlights from Lynn’s first session with reporters this summer:
• On rookie OT Penei Sewell: “You can see it in the shorts, but when you put the pads on you can really see his presence on the football field. I like where he’s at right now. We got a lot of work to do still, but I definitely like where he’s at right now.”
• On what he wants to see from his running backs this preseason: “Once we get in these preseason games, we’re looking for track discipline, ball security. Guys that’s going to not dance too much. Run, hit the hole. And guys that can win the one-on-ones, basically. We get paid to win our one-on-ones.”
• On rookie RB Jermar Jefferson: “Good instincts. Very good instincts. He’s got a lot to learn right now. He’s still learning our system. There’s a lot in the run game for the backs, but his instincts, you can’t coach that and he has shown that.”
• On the balance of being able to take what a defense gives an offense, and offense opposing its will on the defense: “It’s hard to defend both if you’re good at them and if you’re running the ball well, you got to play the run and that’s when we take our shots overhead. Jared has thrown the ball down the field, I think, exceptionally well. We did not connect early in camp. We had a couple drops, but he’s pulling the trigger going down the field with it, as well as Tim and David.”
• On Goff’s budding rapport with tight end T.J. Hockenson: “I think we can move T.J. around and put him in a lot of situations. And he’s a good target. He runs good routes and he fights his tail off in the run game, so I take my hat off to him. He’s a complete tight end.”
• On whether offensive starters will play more this preseason in an attempt to build chemistry: “We’ll see. That’s the head coach’s decision, if we see our starters more in preseason, but we’ll see. Right now we’re trying to do the best we can in practice.”