Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff played some of the best football of his career just a few years ago. From 2017-2018, Goff was considered a young, rising talent and a potentially top-tier quarterback in this league. Over that stretch, Goff ranked sixth in yards per attempt (8.2), fourth in touchdowns (60), and sixth in passer rating (100.8). Since then, though, he’s ranked in the bottom half of the league in all three of those categories.
Naturally, the Lions are hoping to bring some of that magic back to Detroit, and new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is going back to the tape to find that old Goff.
“One thing that we’ve done is included him a lot in what we’re trying to do schematically, and so we spent some time this offseason watching more of the stuff he did a few years ago in LA and how we can incorporate some of that,” Johnson told Detroit media on Thursday.
That process involved sitting down with Goff one-on-one earlier this spring for several days, picking out things Goff did well and working to incorporate it into the team’s new offensive scheme. One aspect of his game that will be leaned on heavily is play-action.
“I know play-action is something he’s really good at, and we’re going to look at doing that,” Johnson said. “It’s really a strength of our offense as well. We’re going to be a really good running team, so that’s going to show up on Sundays is the play-action and the movement game.”
Last year, the Lions ran 108 play-action passes per Pro Football Reference, which ranked 26th in the NFL. During Goff’s most successful season in the NFL (2018), the Rams ranked first in play-action percentage, and third in efficiency in play-action plays. Of course, the Rams were still one of the most play-action heavy teams in his two worst seasons with Los Angeles, as well. His efficiency dropped heavily.
Still, the Lions are confident they can bring back that efficiency, in part, due to an offense that should be able to run the ball efficiently.
“We’re still about running the football, play-action pass, and we hang our hat on that stuff,” head coach Dan Campbell said.
Last year, the Lions averaged an impressive 4.4 yards per carry for the entire season. With all running backs returning this season—plus an offensive line that figures to be more healthy than it was in 2021—there are legitimate reasons to believe the run game can flourish even more in 2022. That being said, there is no statistical evidence to support that an improved run game makes for a more efficient play-action game.
So Goff, too, will have to make his own improvements. Johnson has already seen encouraging signs there, as the Lions quarterback is eager for feedback and showing a willingness to still learn at this point in his career. Remember, he’s still just 27 years old.
“He wants to be coached hard,” Johnson said.” That, to me, is the most encouraging thing about his development. He’s still growing as a player. He’s not close-minded. He’s had a lot of success. He’s gone to a Super Bowl, but at the same time he wants to continue to push the envelope open and continue to get better.”