Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell ‘going to trust my gut’ about offensive play calling

Detroit Free Press

With eight weeks until training camp opens, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell is in no hurry to pick an offensive play caller.

New Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson handled play calling at the Lions’ organized team activity practice Thursday, as he did during the team’s open OTA last week, but Campbell said that decision was more about letting him “coach the team right now” than it was a test run for Johnson for the fall.

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“I’m really not even worried about it right now, to be honest with you,” Campbell said. “I just want to take it as it comes and see how he goes with it. And see how he handles running the offense, doing what I need to have done on my end and kind of my viewpoint, see how the quarterbacks are and just everything, and then go from there. I’m kind of a, I think you guys know this, I’m a gut guy so I’m going to trust my gut to make that decision when the time’s right.”

Campbell handled offensive play calling the final nine games of last season, after since-fired coordinator Anthony Lynn was stripped of the duties.

Johnson served as pass game coordinator during that stretch, when the Lions went 3-5-1 and averaged nearly five points more per game than they did under Lynn.

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Johnson, who joined the Lions as an offensive quality control assistant in 2019 and coached tight ends the past two seasons, has never called plays at any level but said he’s “confident” he’s ready for the role.

“You got to be put in those situations to truly know, but our game-planning process is so detailed and precise that I think actually on gameday it takes care of itself because you know exactly what you want, where you want,” Johnson said. “It’s just really just reading the sheet in my opinion. The 5% that gets hard is the end-of-the-game, end-of-the-half situation where the clock is running and you’ve got to think quickly and those are actually the situations I have experience in from my time in Miami doing that in practice with some of our guys. I know what pitfalls potentially there are there.

“It’s a learning experience, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s one that I certainly feel confident about.”

Campbell joked that if the offense scores 85 points in its first preseason game with Johnson calling plays, he’d immediately cede the duties to his young assistant.

Eighty-four points, he joked, would work, too.

“I think it’ll be hard to make that decision until the season’s almost here,” he said. “I’m going to let it go as it goes and I want to be able to coach the team right now and let him handle the offense and that way I can keep my eyes on our players and what we’re doing offense, defense and special teams. And so that’s what I’m trying to focus on right now. We’ll just kind of take it as it comes.”

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

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