Friday, May 30, 2014
As D impresses, Lombardi defends offense
By Michael Rothstein
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Joe Lombardi sees what everyone else has with the Detroit Lions. Two weeks into organized team activities (OTAs), two open practices and the team’s defense is making the offense look like it is run by a first-time offensive coordinator.
This has not deterred Lombardi, who Jim Caldwell plucked from the New Orleans’ quarterbacks room to head up his offense in his second NFL head coaching gig. Lombardi believes. He also understands the nuance that will come with his offense will likely mean it will take a little bit of time to mesh.
Even as the defense continues to make play after play.
“Always at this point you can have that appearance,” Lombardi said. "You know, the big thing to me is I don’t even necessarily concern myself as much as whether we won the play or not.
“Listen, I know these plays work. I know that the offense that we’re developing will work.”
He has this confidence because he has seen it before, albeit with a different quarterback and set of wide receivers. Lombardi believes because he knows the Saints' offense turned Drew Brees -- then a good quarterback but one ultimately dispensable by San Diego because of the presence of Philip Rivers -- into one of the NFL’s elite players.
So he thinks it’ll happen again, even if the defense is ahead right now. Even Reggie Bush, who ran this offense in New Orleans, agreed that the defense is playing better than the offense at this point.
Yet Lombardi is defending his offense already because of what the Detroit defense has been able to do -- and how they have let the offense know about it.
“Defense always chirps,” Bush said. “It’s part of what they do.”
The team’s new defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, helps there. He is a ball of energy and the enthusiasm he displays extends down to his assistant coaches and then to the players. They love the scheme. They like the aggression. They believe in what they are doing and seeing.
Not that the offense doesn’t -- the players there have also been positive about what the Lions are doing -- but when the defense can perform more on instinct than worrying about steps two weeks into OTAs, that’s a pretty strong sign.
“I think we had a good day, man,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said Wednesday. “Got after it, made some plays. The offense, they get paid, too, but dominated today, man.
“We were just flying around. There are so many different things in our scheme and so many looks.”
It has given Detroit some flexibility and versatility with what it plans on doing, from lining up ends inside the tackles to rush lanes for linebackers to coverages that can disguise plays to help the secondary. It is all stuff that has been done before, but for the Lions right now, it feels shiny and new.
And the Lions' defenders -- from the old ones to the new ones -- all know what the team spent on the offense both this offseason and in offseasons prior. They know the offense is supposed to be one of the best in the NFL.
So that leaves them asking -- why not us, too. If that happens, Detroit’s defense might be in better shape than anyone anticipated.