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O'HARA: Tate predicts a 'fun to watch' offense

There is more to learn, more to add, and tougher challenges ahead for the Detroit Lions' offense than anything they've gone up against this year in practice or the first two preseason games.

But whenever it clicks in fully – and there is no doubt in Golden Tate's mind that it will happen soon – he envisions an offense that will perform at full speed with efficiency and high production.

"It's going to be special," Tate said before Tuesday's practice. "It's going to be fun to watch. It's going to be a fun year to watch us.

"We're going to try to light up the scoreboard."

Tate's projections are based more on the comfort level that has been developing throughout the offseason workouts and training camp than what the No. 1 offense has done in the two preseason games.

With Matthew Stafford and the top three receivers in the game together, the No. 1 unit has gained yards but produced just one field goal in four possessions through the first two preseason games. The starters are likely to get a longer test in preseason Game 3 Saturday night at Baltimore.

In the limited playing time Stafford has gotten so far in the preseason, it is obvious that offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter's up-tempo attack run predominantly without a huddle fits his style.

It's a matter of the offense matching Stafford's comfort level and his elite throwing talent, Tate said.

"The biggest reason we're going to do so well is, this is something Matt's very comfortable with," Tate said. "He's thriving in it. He's comfortable, and he's also still learning, but he's still slinging it around.

"He's not letting defenses hone in on us. He's got a great touch, and he's got one of the most powerful arms in the NFL. You put him in an offense that he's comfortable in, he's going to be even more dangerous."

Stafford has the biggest burden in terms of knowing all of the offense's nuances and getting it in the right plays to exploit the defense, but that's true for a quarterback in any offense – Power-I, West Coast or the Lions' version of the no-huddle.

But as Tate has found, there's a transition for every position, receivers included.

One example is that when there aren't substitutions between plays, Tate has to know all of the receiver positions.

Another example is the requirement to be in tune with hand signals from the quarterback, as well as the abbreviated play calls that are decidedly different from what used to be called in the huddle between plays. That puts the responsibility on all players to execute the plays.

"There's so much information, from learning the route, learning the splits, the depths, the names, the signals," Tate said. "There's so much we have to learn. You've got to be so comfortable. Within two or three seconds, you've got to know 'I've got this' – especially when we're out in the no-huddle.

"You get a signal, you've got to know all that stuff pretty quickly and still be able to play fast and effectively."

From Stafford's perspective, it's a different base offense than anything he ran in his first seven seasons. That includes the last nine games of last season with Cooter in the coordinator's position after Joe Lombardi was fired. Cooter was unable to make wholesale changes at that point in the season.

Stafford had some big games and big seasons in his previous seven seasons. He threw for 5,038 yards and 41 TDs in 2011 when Scott Linehan was the coordinator. Stafford and Linehan had a strong connection, and the pass-first concept Linehan ran in Detroit helped overcome the lack of a running game.

But with his experience level, and the opportunity to spread the ball to a receiving corps led by the trio of Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin and Tate, Cooter's scheme fits Stafford.

"The faster you can push the tempo, when you want to really, just makes it more stressful on the defense," Stafford said during his media session in the Tom Kowalski Press Room.

"If you feel like you're playing at a normal speed and they think you're playing really fast, it feels a whole lot better for us. But if you play fast without executing properly, it doesn't matter. We have to go out there and be able to play fast and execute."

Stafford echoed what head coach Jim Caldwell said later when asked about the no-huddle offense. And Caldwell made it clear that there is more to the offense than the no-huddle attack that's been used in the preseason.

"It's not all we do," Caldwell said. "It's part of what we do. We've been doing it pretty consistently. It's not all we do.  It's not all we're going to do.

"Going fast and not being efficient is just going fast. We want to be efficient as well. We're more interested in efficiency than anything else."

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