Last year, the Detroit Lions were one of the most pass-heavy teams in the NFL. Not only did Matthew Stafford have the fourth most passing attempts in the league, but the Lions, as a team, passed the ball 63 percent of all offensive snaps. Only the Miami Dolphins threw the ball at a higher percentage in 2017 (63.8 percent).
But the Lions are poised to change that ratio this season. There was a clear focus this offseason to beef up the running game, and both general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia have made it no secret that they’re pressing for a more efficient running game this year.
With the additions of LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson in the backfield, the drafting of offensive lineman Frank Ragnow, and the hiring of a new offensive line coach, it would be pretty shocking if the Lions running game didn’t improve a little bit.
But just because the Lions running game should be more efficient doesn’t necessarily mean that the team will run the ball more often in 2018. With all of the solid receiving options the team has and given that Matthew Stafford is playing the best ball of his career, it may not be prudent to take the ball out of their hands.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
How much more will the Lions run the ball in 2018?
My answer: I honestly don’t think it’ll be that much more often. Last year, the team actually ran the ball 52 percent of the time on first down, per Pro Football Reference. The Lions didn’t really abandon the run last year, it was just their inefficiency that forced them to pass on late downs.
And that’s where we’re going to see the biggest difference. Better results on first down will allow the Lions to potentially run the ball on second and third down more often. Last year, the Lions passed the ball a whopping 69.6 percent of the time on second down and 83.7 (!!!) percent of the time on third down. That’s where we’ll see some big changes.
So if I had to put a number on it, I think this year the Lions will throw the ball around 60 percent of the time, which would’ve ranked them around 10th in the league in 2017. Stafford is too important to this team, and I don’t think anyone should realistically expect this Lions running game to shoot all the way into the top 10 in one offseason.