Curtis Modkins looking to help garner respect for the Detroit Lions run game

Posted Feb 11, 2013

Teams don't fear the Lions rushing attack. New running backs coach/run game coordinator Curtis Modkins says he's here to change that.

It was eight seasons ago that Kevin Jones rushed for 1,133 yards for the Detroit Lions. That's significant because it's the last time a Lions running back crossed the 1,000-yard mark.

It's not that resources haven't been spent trying to bolster the Lions run game in recent years. The team drafted running backs Jahvid Best in 2010 and Mikel Leshoure in 2011, but both have battled injuries early in their careers and fans have yet to see their full impact.

As a result, teams don't fear the Lions rushing attack. New running backs coach/run game coordinator Curtis Modkins says he's here to change that.

"I think (offensive coordinator) Scott (Linehan) wants people to have to defend everything," Modkins told "When you have the ability to both run and pass and screen and draw and do all sorts of things, I think the defense has to defend everything. Whether we run it or pass it, I want a defense to have to defend the possibility of both and be afraid of both."

For the past three seasons, Modkins was the offensive coordinator/running backs coach for the Buffalo Bills.

During his tenure at Buffalo, Modkins helped develop a dynamic backfield featuring C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. The Bills averaged 4.7 yards per carry over those three seasons, the fourth-best rushing average in the NFL.

In 2012, Modkins' offense ranked fourth in rushing average (5.0) and sixth in rushing yards (2,217).

If Modkins can bring just a fraction of that success to Detroit -- with the passing attack already in place --  the Lions could be explosive on offense.

"With Calvin (Johnson) and the receivers we have in place, the quarterback and what they've done in the passing game here, it does allow you to have some boxes that are conducive to having a good running game," Modkins said. "I'm excited to see what we can do with that. It's a little different than what I've seen the last three years.

"But at the same time you still have to execute and get the job done. I just think there are some opportunities out there that we're all going to work hard to try and get better at."

New tight ends coach Bobby Johnson, like Modkins, has been playing a bit of catch-up trying to familiarize himself with the offense and roster since his hiring last month.

But even in his short time on the staff, Johnson can already see the potential for the run game from watching the cut-up from this past season.

"There are looks on film watching the cut-ups from last season that I haven't seen in many years," Johnson said of what he and Modkins are seeing on film from how defenses played the Lions this year.

"You're seeing many looks, especially from a run-game standpoint; when you draw the diagram and install the play you draw the most basic, cleanest look (from the defense) and (the Lions) got that look quite a bit because people were worried about Calvin and Matthew and the pass game.

"As we say in the business, there's some very juicy looks right there."

The Detroit Lions offense simply didn't make the most of those opportunities at times last year.

The biggest thing missing from the run game in 2012 was the explosive plays. They had just three runs of 20-plus yards.

Modkins witnessed Spiller rack up 22 explosive runs by himself in Buffalo this year and three more that went for 19 yards.

Best provided the explosive runs in 2010 and early on in 2011 before he was sidelined with a concussion in Week 6. He has yet to return and neither have the explosive runs.

"I don't know what Jahvid's situation is but it will be greatly needed to get some of that in this offense," Modkins said.

"I know watching from afar (Best) provided that for this offense and it's very similar to what C.J. (Spiller) did for our offense in Buffalo. It would be great to have a guy that can do that."

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has already said publically the team will be on the lookout for that type of player this offseason if Best doesn't get his clearance.

While the explosive plays were the missing piece for the Lions run game this year, Modkins did say the team has a good base with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell.

"I'm excited because there's some ability there," he said. "We'll try to help them and give them the tools necessary (to succeed) and a lot of that is fundamentals stuff and technique and just repetition."

Modkins is already familiar with Bell from their time in Buffalo early in Bell's career.

If they had their choice, the Lions would rather not see Stafford have to throw the ball 727 times again next season for the offense to be effective.

They'd prefer for their run game be a weapon.

At the very least, they'd like it to be respected.