Offseason Playbook: Lions

A look at Detroit's philosophy, team needs and a key free-agent move

Originally Published: March 10, 2013
By Gary Horton and Field Yates | ESPN Insider
Matthew Stafford AP Photo/Jeffrey PhelpsLions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 20 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards last season.

In a new offseason series, Insider takes an in-depth look at NFL teams before free agency begins March 12. What is each team's philosophy on offense and defense, biggest needs and one player who could make for an ideal signing in free agency?

Team philosophies

Offense -- Scott Linehan is a creative coordinator, but his offense was hindered in 2012 because of injuries that really diminished the run game and forced the Lions to be a pass-happy offense. Even with a healthier running game in 2013, this will still be a pass-first offense. They are a man-blocking group up front with creative play calling that includes stretch plays and draws, and they would like to be more physical between the tackles, which could open up better play-action opportunities.

In the passing game, Detroit likes to work out of the shotgun with multi-receiver packages that force defenses to play more sub packages, which quarterback Matthew Stafford loves to attack. He likes the vertical passing game, especially to wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and the screen play has become an effective part of this offense. Because of the struggles in the running game, the Lions will use their tight ends and running backs a lot for short yardage situations as almost an extension of the running game.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.