What will the Detroit Lions' offense look like in 2018?
The team retained offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, returns 10-year veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, and has all four of their top wide receivers from last season under contract. There's a lot of continuity there.
The team also has a new head coach in Matt Patricia, who will no-doubt have an impact on that side of the ball. There are also expected to be new blocking schemes upfront with Jeff Davidson taking over coaching duties along the offensive line. The addition of veteran running back LeGarrette Blount in free agency gives the Lions a proven power runner with a track record of success, something they haven't really had in the Stafford era.
So, how will the old and the new mesh?
"I think that's yet to be seen," Stafford said. "I think all of that stuff is going to kind of come to a head when we start playing football.
"I think having the same offensive coordinator probably the majority will be the same but I'm sure there will be differences."
Patricia has talked about his desire to be more balanced on offense.
"Try to really improve what everyone knows is something we need to work on," Patricia said of the run game. "It's not a secret. We're after it and we're on it from the start."
Patricia is big on matchup football, and he wants to have all options available to him when it comes time to start game planning, which includes much more consistency in the run game.
"We're always looking to find ways to be better," Stafford said. "I think if you just look at it statistically from the past year, I think we can be better in a number of areas and we'll put a lot of time and effort and focus into that this offseason."
In terms of the passing game, the team returns six of their seven leading pass catchers from a season ago. They have to replace tight end Eric Ebron (53 receptions for 574 yards), who was released before the start of the league year. But they still have Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. Kenny Golladay, TJ Jones, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah, who totaled 289 catches, 3,586 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The Lions ranked sixth in the NFL in passing last season, and were one of the better deep passing teams in the league. Teams are always looking for ways to improve and get better, even the things they already do well, but it's probably safe to assume that the passing game will look pretty similar to what we saw a year ago with some minor tweaks here and there.
"It's nice (to have continuity at receiver) but we have to continue to improve," Stafford said. "We can't sit there and say, 'Hey, we had a good year last year, let's just go do that again.'
"We have to find ways to be better. Find ways to be more efficient and more explosive."
The Lions are just getting back into the swing of things in the first phase of the offseason conditioning program. Coaches start to join practice next week, and the Lions will hold a voluntary, three-day minicamp April 24-26. That's when some of the implementation of the offense will take place. Even Stafford seems to be excited to see how the new and old elements on offense will start to mesh together.