The circumstances weren't ideal or anything Darrell Bevell would have asked for in his second year as the Detroit Lions' offensive coordinator, but the end result of having a virtual offseason program caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was more than satisfactory.
The offense achieved Bevell's No. 1 goal. It got a jump on improving over last season's performance.
"I think we've been able to make some headway going into this second season," Bevell said Wednesday in a Zoom interview with the Detroit media.
"I like where we're at. Answering if it was an advantage or not, the advantage we did have was going into the second year, I like what we've been able to accomplish through these meetings virtually."
Bevell had doubts going into the offseason about how much impact he could make in a virtual environment coaching players scattered around the country. For example, in recent Zoom media interviews left tackle Taylor Decker was in Arizona, center Frank Ragnow was in Minnesota and running back Kerryon Johnson was in Alabama.
"I thought it was going to be a stale, tough environment to teach in, to communicate in," Bevell said. "I think we've done well with it. We had all different kinds of conversations – some of them football, some of them not.
"The communication's been good. It's been clear. It's been clean."
The offense benefitted from having a core of skilled players back who'd played together in 2019.
None was more important than quarterback Matthew Stafford, who returns in 2020 recovered from a season-ending back injury sustained in the eighth game against the Raiders.
Stafford was among the league leaders with 2,499 yards passing, 19 TDs and only five interceptions when he went out.
Bevell is impressed with the energy and leadership Stafford has displayed in preparing for his 12th NFL season.
"I just love this guy," Bevell said. "I really like what he's bringing into the meetings, whether it's the individual meetings we're having, the offensive meetings, speaking up at the team meeting.
"He's really doing a great job with his leadership. He's super excited. You sit out half a season, it kind of can give you a sense of where you're at.
"I think he's really chomping at the bit and excited to get back with his teammates – really get back on the field, continue this thing and start winning a bunch of games."
One thing that could not be replicated on either side of the ball was units competing against each other, even without pads and contact as is the case in normal offseasons.
That added to the importance of having the majority of the skilled players back from last year. That included wide receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola, tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James, and running backs Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough.
"It definitely definitely helps having all those skill guys back," Bevell said. "Having Matthew back healthy obviously is a huge deal for us. To have all those wide receivers at some point or other being able to get with Matthew in the offseason, the tight ends working with him as well – it's a great group.
"They're all eager. They're ready to go. Obviously, we have some really good talent. We've been able to add some talent as well at the running back position, and things like that.
"We're really excited where we're headed with those guys."