Stafford is certainly the key to the Lions' success on offense in 2014, but we shouldn’t forget the importance the run game can play in a supporting role.
The Lions had a run/pass ratio of about 60/40 pass vs. run last season. They are committed to being more balanced in 2014, however. In fact, head coach Jim Caldwell has made it a priority.
“I think coach Caldwell and coach (offensive coordinator) Joe (Lombardi) have made it clear that the run game is important,” running backs coach Curtis Modkins told detroitlions.com.
“Our offense will be the Lions offense. Joe comes from the Saints, but the offense will be the offense that fits our guys, and I think Joe and coach Caldwell feel like the run game is very important. There is an emphasis on it.”
That emphasis hasn't just been felt in the running backs room. It's trickled down to the offensive line room and even the tight end group.
“There’s a lot of talk about passing the ball, but honestly, there comes a point in every offense where you have to run the ball,” assistant head coach/tight ends coach Ron Prince said.
“You can pass to score, but eventually there will come a time in every season you have to run to win.”
Modkins says it's important for him to get a lot of different players involved in the action.
“I think the guys will determine their roles as we go,” he said. “And those will be defined in camp and in the preseason. But I can foresee a lot of the guys having a big part of our success this year.”
“Theo has a unique ability and a unique skill set because he had some major college experience (Notre Dame) as a receiver,” Modkins said. “So he brings a unique skill set to the running back position that gives you some flexibility.
“I think he did some good things in the spring and I’m looking forward to him continuing those throughout training camp and the preseason games and actually taking that from the practice field to the games and seeing how that progresses.
“He really has an opportunity to do some unique things for us with some of his versatility.”
“I think Mikel has a chance to be a big part of what we do,” Modkins said. “As a matter of fact, I’m anticipating him being a big part of what we do and a big role in our success.”
Leshoure played in just three games last year after rushing for 798 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games in 2012.
That would mean four backs splitting carries in Detroit.
Also consider that a featured fullback, something the team hasn’t had since Jerome Felton left after the 2010 season, will be a very different look for the Lions rushing attack this year as well.
“Having a fullback will add a few different wrinkles that we didn’t have last year,” Modkins said. “Fullback is a thinking man’s position. It’s not the old time every play is an iso or lead play. There’s some thinking and adjustments they have to make on the run … and I’m fortunate because we have some really sharp players.”
From the installation of a new scheme to the addition of a fullback, things are going to look a little different for the Lions run game in 2014.