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Detroit Lions OC Darrell Bevell not afraid of ‘pushing against the grain’ in offensive philosophy

The Lions offense isn’t following current NFL trends, and Detroit OC is fine with that.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

When asked about the pillars to his offensive scheme, new Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell gave the answers you’d expect. First and foremost, protect the ball. Any offensive-minded coach will tell you that avoiding turnovers is absolutely essential to constructing a strong offense.

His next pillar: running the football.

In the three months since the Lions hired Bevell, this is the identity we’ve all learned about Detroit’s new offensive coordinator. He wants his offense to dictate tempo, impose their will on the defense and identify as a “tough, hard-nosed physical football team.”

For some, that may feel like a relief. Detroit hasn’t had a consistent running game since the Barry Sanders era, and a more balanced offense always seems to be the recipe to success, especially for a quarterback like Matthew Stafford, who could use a break from being one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the entire NFL.

However, there is also a growing concern that football is moving away from that old-school philosophy. Over the past few years, especially, we’ve seen innovative offenses dictated by the passing game take over, with the likes of Sean McVay and Andy Reid leading the way. For well over a decade now, the NFL has been moving to a pass-heavy offense, but in the past few years we’ve seen it turn even more drastically in favor of spreading the ball out, going up-tempo, and heaving the ball downfield.

Bevell, however, isn’t concerned about going against conventional thought here. The game is evolving, but he believes his tenant of establishing the run will hold true in the long run.

“I’ve seen (offensive strategy) change, but it’s kind of cyclical. It always comes back,” Bevell said this week. “I don’t think, necessarily, there’s any negative in pushing against the grain sometimes. Everybody starts doing one thing and then they all get good at either running it or defending it, and sometimes being the one that’s different—like go way back to, I remember in high school you got some passing teams, then you play the team that runs the Wing-T, and new rules, new teaching, everybody has to learn how to defend that.”

Of course, the Lions aren’t suddenly going to be a Wing-T offense. In fact, Bevell’s third philosophy on offense is creating explosive plays through the air, something that Russell Wilson and Bevell succeeded at during their time in Seattle. This isn’t an offense that is giving up on the passing attack.

“When we throw the ball, we want to be able to throw it down the field and get big plays,” Bevell said.

That being said, Bevell thinks that teams that are moving to a more physical identity on offense could even benefit from defenses that are trying to keep up with the quick and speedy spread offenses. As the defenses respond by getting smaller and quicker, the more physically punishing offense could have an edge.

“It is different for the opponent,” Bevell said. “If you’re playing the Rams and the Chiefs and those team week in and week out, they’re defending the same thing,” Bevell said. “And all of a sudden you play us, there’s going to be different things to defend. They have to decide how they want to do it. They’re going to have the personnel look different, so I think it kind of gives you a little bit of an edge that way.”

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.