METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions might have to pull out their secret playbooks when they meet on Sunday -- or at least throw in a few new wrinkles -- since they both have so much inside information on the other’s offense.
Former Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi left this year to become Detroit’s offensive coordinator and play-caller. And he is one of eight former Saints coaches or players now in Detroit.
Saints coach Sean Payton said that might require a few tweaks, like changing the hand signals at the line of scrimmage.
"You’re in a loud environment so it’s not like they’re necessarily hearing (play calls and audibles), but just being mindful of your hand signals that might mean a certain play," Payton said. "And look, based on the offensive film that I I’ve seen, I think they’re gonna want to do the same. In other words, you can see some similar signals."
As I wrote Thursday, the Saints will play against their former running back Reggie Bush for the first time since he was traded in 2011. They will also reunite with fullback Jed Collins, running back Joique Bell, safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, cornerback Danny Gorrer, special teams coordinator John Bonamego and cornerbacks coach Tony Oden.
Lombardi’s presence, however, is the one that has really led to comparisons between the offenses. There are indeed some similar tendencies -- and that’s by design. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the team targeted Lombardi and added unique offensive weapons that create matchup problems like free-agent receiver Golden Tate and rookie tight end Eric Ebron.
"Coming here in a situation where we knew we had an experienced quarterback that certainly had played well (Matthew Stafford), we needed a guy that obviously had a good understanding of offensive football and had some diversity to it that would be able to not only direct the quarterback but also the different weapons that we had, like Calvin (Johnson)," Caldwell said. "We have so many different types of styles that (we were looking for) a guy that was accustomed to being around an operation that utilized their personnel accordingly and in a diverse way, and obviously a guy that has been around excellence in quarterback play. ... And Joe met all of that criteria. And not only that, he is an excellent person, great teacher, and has a great presence about him."
Saints defensive players have said this week that they see some familiarity in Detroit's offensive style -- safety Kenny Vaccaro joked that it will feel a bit like going against Payton in training camp. But it's not an exact replica.
"When you watch film, you definitely see the Saints’ flair on them," saints linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "But I think Joe Lombardi’s done a good job of bringing his own feel to it, too."