In his first public press conference since being named Detroit Lions interim head coach, Darrell Bevell said he didn’t really feel hamstrung by Matt Patricia’s conservative nature at any point.
“I think coach gave me a lot of leeway to run the offense,” Bevell said.
Under Patricia, the offense seemed to take on an identity around ball control. Establishing the run was at a premium, so the Lions could control the clock on offense, keep the defense off the field and control the pace at all times.
So, one would think that Detroit’s offensive game plan may not change much with Patricia out of the picture. However, offensive tackle Taylor Decker did drop a hint that there may be some significant philosophical changes to that side of the ball, and he’s already seeing it in practice.
“One thing that Bev has always preached to our offense—and now as the head coach—is pace in and out of the huddle,” Decker said of changes he saw at Wednesday’s practice. “Running plays fast. Getting up to the line of scrimmage, line up, run the play, because pace, as an offense, is a weapon. And as a defense, if you can match the pace, then they can’t use that as a weapon.”
To be fair to Patricia, the pace of the Lions offense this year may not be as slow as you’d think. In game-neutral situations—which Football Outsiders defines as a score differential of less than 10 points in the first half, 8 or fewer points in the third quarter, and plays outside the last five minutes of halves—the Lions had the 13th-fastest pace in the NFL, averaging 29.75 seconds per play. Including all plays, the Lions are actually seventh fastest (26.07).
Still, per Sharp Football, the Lions are using no huddle outside of two-minutes left in the half just 4.84 percent of the time, which ranks 21st.
Does that mean the Lions will suddenly be an up-tempo offense that is unrecognizable from the first 11 games? Unlikely. Bevell has kept everything else pretty close to the vest this week, but he did say that he’d also like to hit on big plays with a little more consistency—though not necessarily attempt them in higher frequencies.
“But I want us to play more consistent,” Bevell said on Saturday. “I want us to continue to find those explosive plays that we haven’t been as consistent as we’d like to be in finding those. Again, just playing that same way.”
We obviously won’t know exactly how much different the offense will be until Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. That being said, Bevell will have his hands full against the fourth-best defense by DVOA and eighth-best in scoring.