New Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell pointed to four core principles he lives by when speaking to reporters in Allen Park Tuesday:
1. “No. 1 is protecting the football. It’s going to be all about the ball.”
2. “We’ll always be about running the football.”
3. “We want to be a tough, hard-nosed football team and be able to exert our will on our opponent.”
4. “We want to be explosive in the passing game. When we throw the ball, we want to be able to throw it down the field and get big plays.”
Bevell wants to have an offense that’s versatile and multiple, much like how head coach Matt Patricia operates on defense. Bevell also wants a unit tailored to the strengths of its personnel. He doesn’t have the approach that players must fit into his offense, but rather the offense must fit the personnel.
“It’s not going to look exactly the same as it did in Seattle because you got different players,” Bevell said of his previous stops as offensive coordinator in Minnesota (2006-10) and Seattle (2011-17). “Whatever those guys do well, we’re going to tailor it to those things.”
That also goes for 11th-year quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is learning a new offense for the fourth time in his NFL tenure. Bevell said Stafford’s done a nice job up to this point in picking up the offense, even with his attempts to put Stafford in some unfamiliar situations along the way.
“I think I’m going to ask Matthew to do things he hasn’t done before,” Bevell said. “Try to challenge him in a way that, I think, can push him to get better.
“But then, obviously, I need to tailor things for him to make sure that what he feels like he does well we’re able to do as well.”
Pressed on some of the specifics of what that might look like, Bevell smiled and declined to go into further detail.
“We’ll just leave that out there and let you see if it looks any different,” he said.
It certainly sounds like there’s going to be some new wrinkles on offense we haven’t seen before with Stafford under center.
Stafford said after an OTA practice last week he’s having a blast learning the new offense.
Stafford’s coming off a down season statistically. He failed to reach 4,000 passing yards for the first time since his injury-shortened 2010 season. His 21 passing touchdowns were the lowest since 2012 (20) and his average yards per reception (6.8) were his lowest over the past seven years.
Stafford strong arm and his ability to make throws look effortless has impressed Bevell. So has Stafford’s ability to pick up the language of the new scheme and communicate it to teammates.
“I’m just excited about working with him and just improving some of the little things I’d like to improve,” Bevell said of his quarterback. “And then ask him to do a few things he hasn’t done a lot of.
“We’re not going to ask him to do things he doesn’t do well. We want him to be able to do things that he does well and feels comfortable doing, but there might be some things he can do well that he just hasn’t done, so he’s not comfortable with doing it just yet, and I think those are the things we want to push him on.”
The Lions are still trying to find out what they’re going to be as an offense. Bevell is throwing a lot at his players to see how they respond and what sticks. That goes for everyone on offense, Stafford included.