When Ron Prince took over the offensive line coaching duties midway through last season he had a very specific goal of starting to build the foundation of what he hoped his line would hang its hat on moving forward.
On the fly, in the middle of an NFL regular season, Prince was somewhat limited to implementing just the core principles. He knew the real install of the complete offense and techniques upfront was still to come.
"We just stripped it all down from the very beginning and taught a little bit different way to pass set, a different way to run block, some different aiming points and different techniques," Prince told detroitlions.com.
"The other system wasn't bad, it's just that those techniques don't apply to how we were playing."
The Lions saw immediate dividends after Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator and Prince as offensive line coach. The run game improved by nearly 30 yards per game over the second half of last season, and the Lions scoring average went from 18 points per game to 26.
"Where I thought the biggest change for us occurred was ... we played harder," Prince said. "We finished better. We were down the field arriving at the ball with a purpose. We were really attempting to physically reduce the players we were playing against and I think that helped us."
Prince said this offseason and training camp has been about building on those principles and fine-tuning the focus. There have been a lot of eyes on the offensive line to start training camp. General manager Bob Quinn said early on that he wanted to be tougher upfront. The team drafted tackle Taylor Decker, center Graham Glasgow and guard Joe Dahl in the first five picks of the draft.
They moved Riley Reiff from left tackle, where he's started the last three seasons, to right tackle, and have added depth and competition at both interior spots.
Cooter has installed his entire offense, and it's success will go hand in hand with the offensive line continuing to make the improvements they started to show the second half of last season.
Prince is hoping the end result will be a more versatile group that can put the Lions in better running situations and provide different matchups in pass protection.
In changing the offense and retooling the techniques upfront, the expectation is that the offense can "expand the menu," as Prince refers to it, for both Cooter and quarterback Matthew Stafford -- A full run game package and pass protections at their disposal.
"We have given every single player an area of primacy right now," Prince said. "A thing he has to improve on in the next four days before we go play against Pittsburgh.
"So every guy has a list of things. This is essential. This is urgent. It's immediate. It's right now. And then here's some long-term things that you need to start to gain ground on perfecting."
Prince is a no nonsense kind of coach. Each player understands that if the things on the primacy list aren't corrected or improved upon right now, they most likely won't be part of the plan moving forward.
Everyone is in a little bit different place when it comes to the length of his list, according to Prince. As expected, Riley Reiff has fewer things on his list that are urgent. If you're a rookie like Decker, Glasgow or Dahl, the list is longer.
"Because of that, this time, training camp, instead of a unit, it's about the individual," Prince said. "As we start to narrow the roster and narrow our focus, we'll start to have more things that the unit needs to do. But right now, we're still working different combinations of people."