Why Detroit Lions are adding third-down work to end of every practice period

Detroit Free Press

Thursdays are third-down days in the NFL, but given his team’s struggles in that area through the season’s first four weeks, Dan Campbell is making every day a Thursday for the Detroit Lions.

Campbell said Wednesday he tweaked his practice schedule this week to include a few third-down plays at the end of every practice period, an emphasis he said he was going to make after last week’s 24-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.

“We’re going to start doing it every day,” Campbell said. “We’ll have, whether it’s one or two plays at the end of each segment, offense versus defense, good versus good, we’re going to do it. And we’ll start there.”

Campbell passed on sure field goals twice against the Bears, but the Lions failed to convert on fourth-and-short both times.

They finished 4 of 11 on third downs for the game and rank in the bottom quarter of the league in both third- and fourth-down conversion percentage for the season.

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DAN CAMPBELL: ‘I was trying to give us an upper hand’ with aggressive fourth down plays

Campbell said his team’s short-yardage struggles — the Lions have converted 46.2% of the time on third- or fourth-and-3 less — have caused him to re-evaluate his aggressive approach to fourth downs. The Lions (0-4) lead the NFL with 10 fourth-down attempts, but have only three conversions.

“I think what works and what doesn’t, typically it’s just execution,” Lions quarterback Jared Goff said. “We haven’t had bad plays called, it’s just executing them how we want to. We’ve jumped offsides a couple times. It’s not like we need to reinvent the wheel, but just a little better execution, a little bit more focus on the details.”

Goff said the Lions practiced “some new ideas” in short-yardage situations Wednesday.

Along with the added third down emphasis, Campbell said he made a few other practice tweaks designed to both help the Lions prepare for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings and speed the development of their young core.

“We’ll be in pads today for a period of time and then we’re going to go into teach mode towards the back end of practice and really hone in on the package and the scheme and what we’re trying to do and how we need to stop these guys,” he said. “So we get a little bit of both.”

Briefly

The Lions activated kicker Austin Seibert from the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. Ryan Santoso handled kicking duties the past two weeks, making his only field goal try and all four of his extra point attempts. … The Lions signed linebacker Rashod Berry and guard Parker Ehinger to their practice Wednesday and released practice squad receiver Javon McKinley. Berry and Ehringer visited the Lions on Tuesday.

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

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