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The Lions are using more no-huddle offense, and it’s working

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All signs point to the Lions using more no-huddle this year, and that appears to be a good thing.

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Ever since the Detroit Lions started training camp, observers have noticed an increase in tempo with the offense on the field. Just take a look at this passage from Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett on the Lions’ tempo during joint practices with the Pittsburgh Steelers:

At one point in practice, while the Lions' No. 1 offense was on one field and the Steelers' No. 1 offense was on the other, the Lions ran four plays before the Steelers got one play off. Talking to Steelers safety Mike Mitchell afterwards, he said he was taken aback by the pace some.

The Lions players and coaches seem giddy when talking about the no-huddle offense. We know that Matthew Stafford is taking more control over this offense and seems to have a big hand in molding it to his will, so it comes as no surprise that Stafford is happy about this change. “The faster you can push the tempo — when you want to, really — just makes it more stressful on the defense,” Stafford said in his press conference on Tuesday.

Receiver Marvin Jones is excited about the up-tempo style, too. “That’s what we are,” Jones told Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett this week.

But the Lions have used this rhetoric before. In his first year as head coach, Jim Caldwell promised to use no-huddle looks more often. “Tempo, more so than anything else, is a weapon,” Caldwell said back in January of 2014. Fast forward to November of 2014:

"But one of the things I know from operating in a system like that when we went strictly no-huddle and the only time we huddled was maybe on third down and maybe on the goal line -- maybe -- I can just tell you that it just depends on the system and how it fits your personnel. That doesn't necessarily fit our personnel the entire way through an entire ballgame."

According to NFL Savant, the Lions used no-huddle in just 2.3 percent of their plays in 2014. While that number jumped to 5.1 percent in 2015 (7 percent according to Pro Football Focus), it is still one of the slower moving offenses in the league. According to Football Outsiders’ pace statistics, the Lions offense took 28.7 seconds per play, the ninth-slowest offense in the league (they were 13th slowest in 2015).

This year, however, the Lions appear to be serious about moving to a quicker tempo, and it looks like it’s already paying off:

Granted this is just the preseason, but the fact that the Lions are going no-huddle in well over half of their snaps confirms a true commitment to this change in style.

Still, Caldwell warns that this may not be as drastic of a change as it appears. “I don’t want you to get the wrong impression,” Caldwell said of the new up-tempo offense on Tuesday. “That’s not all we’re going to do. It’s part of what we do.”

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter echoed those statements on Wednesday. “We do some no-huddle, we also huddle up a little bit,” Cooter said to the media. “We’re going to do whatever we think’s best.”

So far, it looks like the no-huddle offense is one of their better options. Although the first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown, they have consistently moved the ball down field through two preseason games. We’ll see if that trend continues on Saturday against the Ravens.