Detroit Lions Offense Has a Two-Fold Problem


Two games into the 2015 season and it is apparent the Detroit Lions have issues on offense. That is apparent to anyone who has watched anything beyond the first half of week one.

After grading the first two games of the season, Pro Football Focus offered some analysis on what is plaguing the Lions offense as it relates to Matthew Stafford‘s poor start. Ultimately, it’s not just a Stafford problem, but two problems rolled into one.

Problem number one:

"The obvious answer is that he is being badly affected by the volume of pressure he has been under through two games. Only Colin Kaepernick has been pressured on more dropbacks through two games (35 to Stafford’s 34)."

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Which leads into problem number two:

"When kept clean this season he has had a passer rating of 102.5, completing 78.8 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and one pick. His yards per attempt figure on those passes is a healthy 7.4, but the problem has been when the heat has been applied.Stafford’s passer rating has tumbled to 43.1 on plays where he felt pressure, completing just 32.3 percent of his passes and throwing as many interceptions (two) as touchdowns. That near 60-point drop in passer rating is nearly double the NFL average of 33 points."

Any quarterback is going to play better when given a clean pocket but Stafford’s performance suffers more than average when pressured. By allowing so much pressure, the Lions are compounding a weakness.

With two problems come two possible solutions: either Stafford improves when under pressure, or reduce the pressure he sees.

Sep 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end

Everson Griffen

(97) pressures Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) into throwing an incomplete pass in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Some incremental improvement from Stafford when pressured would be good, but this far into his NFL career he may just be what he is going to be. That means if the Lions are going to turn things around offensively, they have to find a way to turn down the heat on Stafford.

Frustratingly, this is nothing new. Perhaps even more frustrating, the Lions actually tried to do something about limiting the pressure but haven’t seen results so far this season. By trading back in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Lions were able to acquire Manny Ramirez in addition to drafting Laken Tomlinson. Ramirez was the only Lions offensive lineman to get a positive grade from PFF in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings but the offensive line play overall haven’t been good enough.

Cornelius Lucas has been a turnstile at right tackle and Riley Reiff‘s strong training camp hasn’t translated into a strong start in the regular season. Lucas should be quickly shuffled to the bench as soon as the coaching staff deems LaAdrian Waddle fit enough to get through a game. Then hopefully the line can jell in time to salvage their season.

Next: Week 3 NFL Power Rankings

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