Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ offense and how it can be fixed

Can’t blame it all on the offensive line

The Detroit Lions offense was a disappointment in the first six games. Plain and simple.

Injuries played a role along the offensive line but that is not the only reason the offense has not found a consistent rhythm.

The offense is ranked 26th in the NFL, averaging just 298 yards per game.

After a bye week, a little reflection and much needed rest for the players, the offense will be tested big-time by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. The Steelers’ defense ranks second in the NFL overall and first against the pass.

There’s no head-hanging among the Lions, just a renewed determination.

“I don’t know all the stats and stuff but we have potential to be a whole lot better than we are right now. Yeah, I see us being a much bigger part of our team winning ball games as we move forward,’’ Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “The goal here is to win. I think we’ve won three and lost three. We’re not as successful offensively helping our team win as I and we would like us to be at this moment, and I do see us improving, and really becoming a big factor in that thing.”

Five thoughts about the offensive woes and how to fix them.

1. Cooter said he learned a “bunch” through self-scouting. “It’s good to have time to sort of spend diving deep on what we’ve done this year, what we’ve done well, what we need to do better, and hopefully improve those things and maybe throw away some of the stuff we don’t do as well,’’ Cooter said. “Throw away is probably a little bit strong, but you see certain things that maybe aren’t working great and you maybe push them to the back for a little while. Doesn’t mean they don’t come back up one of these days. But yeah, sometimes when a certain things not working and you figure out there’s maybe a reason for that with our guys, or our scheme, or our people or whatever. Sometimes a play is just not very hot, so you shove it away for a couple of weeks and maybe bring it back down the road.”

2. Matthew Stafford, who has been sacked 17 times in the last three games, needs to step up too. It would be easier if he had better protection but the Lions have to make it work with the personnel that they have. Stafford said his play was like the team’s a little up and down. “I wish it was probably a little bit more consistent like everybody does in this league. You wish you’d go out every week and play great and an extremely high level, and don’t make mistakes. But they happen, and we got to learn from them and make sure they don’t happen again,’’ Stafford said. So far he’s completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,428 yards, thrown a dozen touchdown passes and four interceptions.

3. Cooter is not concerned that the offense is too predictable. “We’re aware of tendencies. Sometimes it’s best to run a certain play a certain way and that’s the best way to run it. We’ve looked at all the alternatives, let’s run that play this way. Maybe it’s in the shotgun or whatever. Defenses know that as well. You might set some tendencies,’’ Cooter said. “Sometimes you have to counteract those tendencies. Sometimes you go, ‘Boy, let’s just let our guys do what’s the absolute best thing to do.’ So, sometimes you set tendencies. You got to have the ability to counteract those things as you see fit. I don’t think it’s exactly a 50/50 thing and I know it’s not 100/0 thing, and so you just kind of go out there and try to play your best game and sometimes switch things up.”

4. The run game — or lack of it — continues to be an issue. “I think we have a good running game but we have a lot of negative to no yardage runs. but we’ll also have a 60-yarder and so statistically you look at that average is OK but it could be a lot better,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said. “I want to see every time we put the ball in the running back’s hands in the backfield we get three (yards). That’s the goal when you’re doing that it makes it tough on the defense to know if you’re going to pass or throw, it makes it more manageable on third down. I think those are all huge points to be a successful offense.’’ The Lions average 84 rushing yards a game which ranks 26th in the NFL. Ameer Abdullah leads with 342 rushing yards and Stafford is the second leading rusher with 57 yards.

— They are confident but know there is work to be done. “Just really knowing the personality that this offense has and seeing the trend in the past, just keep working, we know that we can do it, we know we have the personnel to do it, we just need to have all 11 men on each play to be on the same page,’’ Tate said. “As we’ve seen may many times in the past if one guy doesn’t do his job correctly that can mess up the whole play it’s not on Jim Bob by any means it’s a collective effort.’’

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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