Back to the basics.
That's been the theme this springtime for offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and the Detroit Lions' offense heading into their second season under Johnson's guidance.
It would be easy for Johnson and the Lions to look at the offensive performance last season – finishing fourth in total offense and fifth in points per game – and just expect to hit the ground running and start installing new concepts, but that's not the plan.
"When we look back at what we did in self scout all of our plays from last year I came away from it personally that even if we didn't run one new play this year, if we ran all the same plays that we ran last year, that we would be a better offense because we have to execute better than we did," Johnson said Thursday ahead of the team's second open OTA practice.
"We did a lot of nice things a year ago, but it really means nothing going forward to this year. We have to be a lot better in terms of the execution and we should be because we've ran it, and we should know what the problems are for the plays we're running now."
Johnson still plans to push the envelope and be creative and innovative once training camp starts and the preparation begins for the regular season, but he came away from that self-scout feeling like this offense left a lot of meat on the bone, especially opportunities to be more explosive in the run game.
Johnson's offense finished in the top 11 in both passing and rushing last season. Detroit scored 30-or-more points in eight games, tied for the most in the NFL. They also produced 20-or-more points in 14 games, tied for the third most in the league.
They return one of the best offensive lines in football, a veteran quarterback in Jared Goff who played at a Pro Bowl level in 2022, and have versatile and explosive weapons at the skill positions.
Yet Johnson sees room for so much more improvement.
"I personally expect a huge step forward in terms of the growth and knowledge base of our players the experience they have under their belt," he said. "That's why the emphasis has been on the basics. Let's get really good at the fundamentals because that's what helped us win games at the end of last year."
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said he's loved Johnson's game plan this spring of getting back to the basics with the goal of doing everything they did well even better.
"Let's just fundamentally get a little bit better," Campbell said. "A little bit sharper with it. That is the tug-of-war we play right now. I'd like to believe that certainly, we want more, I mean that is what this game is. We did some good things offensively, but we want more out of it. And I think that is what we are into now and what camp will certainly be."
Now with a year under his belt as a play caller and the mission to improve every aspect of the offense, it should be fun to see what Johnson has in store going into his second season as OC.