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Tate: Offense started from scratch this offseason

The Detroit Lions offense is still very much a work in progress this offseason.

We witnessed that side of the ball become a much more consistent unit the second half of last season after Jim Bob Cooter took over as offensive coordinator midseason. Matthew Stafford's numbers improved dramatically and the run game progressed. Overall, it was a much better brand of offensive football with Cooter pulling the strings.

But the offense that helped the Lions win six games the second half of the season wasn't 100 percent Cooter's. It was still a bit of a hybrid between Joe Lombardi's old scheme and Cooter's new scheme.

The offense being installed in Allen Park this offseason is very different than the one the Lions ran even the second half of last season.

"I think it's exactly what it is, we started from scratch," receiver Golden Tate said after an open OTA practice last week.

"The calls are different. The signals are different. From top to bottom it's all new and we're just taking it day by day. I think our guys are doing a great job staying in their book and trying to learn it."

There are obviously some elements that were put in place on the fly the second half of last year that have been adopted into the new package. But this has truly been a full reinstall, according to Tate. And like anything new, it takes time to perfect.

It would explain some of the sloppiness, penalties, missed assignments and balls hitting the ground on offense over the course of the two open OTA practices the last two weeks.

"It's a lot of material, for sure," Tate said. "It's a little different from last year.

"I think in the classroom we all get it, but it's one thing to be out on the line of scrimmage and in a matter of seconds understanding the calls and what's required of you. So, we're all just trying to get good at it so we can do less thinking and more playing."

The portions of the scheme installed last season were particularly quarterback-friendly to Stafford. His passer rating jumped over 25 points the last eight games, and he played arguably the best stretch of football in his career.

It's no surprise then that Stafford has led the charge in helping get everyone on the same page with Cooter's big-picture vision for this offense.

"I think he has complete control over it," receiver TJ Jones said of Stafford. "He knows what everyone is doing on the field. You know you kind of give him a blank stare and he can tell you what to do without hesitation.

"Having that half season and full offseason coming into OTAs has given him a lot of time to take complete control."

As the quarterback and elder statesman on offense, Stafford is playing the role of on-the-field conductor for an orchestra trying to find a new sound with different pieces.

Calvin Johnson is gone. Lance Moore won't be in the slot. Joique Bell is no longer a big component of the run game. There's expected to be some shake up along the offensive line.

Young players like Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Eric Ebron, Taylor Decker and TJ Jones are expected to step in and play big roles. How quickly and how well they grasp the new system will play a factor in the role they can have within it.

"There's a wide variety of plays (in this offense)," Tate said. "A lot of things we can do, which is the exciting part. I don't see us being predictable this year. I think Jim Bob, what he has lined up and the personnel we have, we're going to be exciting to watch."

As the install resumes the next couple weeks during OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, players will continue to try and comprehend the entire breadth of this scheme.

How well they're able to accomplish that will determine if this offense hits the ground running in training camp or is still bogged down some by what Tate described as players thinking instead of just playing.

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