- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It is a new season with a new coaching staff and the practices and games that matter are still months away, yet the Detroit Lions are still living in the same issued world as last season.
Those receivers, they are struggling to catch passes.
This isn’t a new phenomenon with Detroit, a team that was the worst in the NFL in drop rate last season. Rather, even with a new staff and an emphasis on catching the ball, the Lions are still not completely sharp in that area. Good thing for them games that matter don’t happen until September.
“Today was a little sloppy, I’m not going to lie to you,” Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “I was getting a little angry today because I thought mostly the drops and, you know, some of the alignments weren’t what you want. And so it was really a concentration issue more than anything.”
It was that concentration that foiled the Lions often last season with a costly turnover, a poor decision, a bad read, or that 7.3 percent drop rate. It was also that concentration -- specifically with hands and with the drops -- the Lions spent part of the offseason trying to fix. It is why the team signed receiver Golden Tate.
It’s also been a mantra of head coach Jim Caldwell to find receivers who can catch passes. Yet Tate, who had one of the top drop rates in the NFL the past few seasons, dropped two passes Wednesday. So did Reggie Bush.
“I think it’s always a concern but I do think there is good hands here,” Lombardi said. “So it’s really a matter of concentration and getting these guys the reps and a lot of it is just getting their comfort level down.
“They are still learning the offense so they are thinking where do I line up, what’s the depth of my route, and I think when they get more comfortable, their concentration will come up a little bit.”
That goes for the pass catchers and the guy throwing them the ball most often, quarterback Matthew Stafford.
He described Lombardi’s offense as “play-intensive, verbage-intensive,” and that can make it difficult to pick up as a lot of Detroit’s players are both learning what Lombardi wants as well as making sure they aren’t confusing it with what former coordinator Scott Linehan ran the past five seasons with the Lions.
The drops were an issue for at least one day so far, Wednesday, as the Lions continue to work the bigger issue: Helping to improve Stafford.
One of the things they worked on was his footwork -- something every coach at every level preaches about along with different ways to work on it. While Stafford wouldn’t divulge what quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter and Lombardi have changed about his footwork, he did say they have brought an alternative to what he learned under Linehan and Todd Downing.
“It’s whatever these coaches brought with them,” Stafford said. “It’s not salsa dancing or anything. It’s football quarterback drills.”
No matter what else Detroit’s coaches tinker with. No matter what else the Lions try to implement, the offense still remains being either as good or as poor as Stafford and the wide receivers -- and on Wednesday, it was a bit rough -- are able to grasp and learn the offense.
“We’re still kind of getting into the swing of our offense, still learning it, still trying to get lined up right but that’s part of OTAs,” Bush said. “We’re not supposed to be perfect right now.
“If we were perfect right now, I’d be a little bit worried.”