September 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

2014 NFL preview

Lions then and now: Comparing the Caldwell and Schwartz regimes

A look at the potential and expected changes from the Jim Schwartz Lions coaching regime to the new era of Jim Caldwell:

Improved discipline

Then: Discipline was a constant problem for the Lions under Jim Schwartz’s tenure. Last year the Lions were tied for 22nd in the NFL with 110 penalties.

Now: Coach Jim Caldwell has repeatedly said the Lions will play smart under his leadership. In his first year as Colts head coach, Indianapolis drew just 84 flags, tied for fifth in 2009.

Calvin Johnson on the move

Then: With Scott Linehan leading the offense, the league’s top receiver played mostly outside, with about a quarter of his routes starting in the slot.

Now: Under coordinator Joe Lombardi, Johnson will be regularly on the move to create mismatches. Saints No. 1 receiver Marques Colston played in the slot more than half the time while Lombardi was in New Orleans.

Vertical threats at tight end

Then: The Lions kept trying to turn Brandon Pettigrew into a downfield weapon and couldn’t find a way to utilize Joseph Fauria more than in the red zone last season.

Now: In 2014, Pettigrew will become blocking focused, rookie Eric Ebron will stretch the middle of the field as an effective No. 3 receiver, and Fauria could have a bigger role, too.

Deployment of running backs

Then: The Lions typically used one feature back with a solid backup under Linehan until Joique Bell proved worthy of sharing time with Reggie Bush last season.

Now: This year Bell and Bush will continue to split time, but Theo Riddick will have a role, too. Plus, Bush and Riddick will line up as receivers, and two of the backs could be on the field together.

Defensive alignments

Then: Schwartz’s go-to alignment with defensive ends was a wide-nine technique, and the defense always used a 4-3 base and rarely blitzed more than the line.

Now: Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will use multiple formations, though it will be a 4-3 base, and the ends will play tighter with linebackers often playing at the line of scrimmage because of the increased use of blitzes.

Rotation of linebackers

Then: The Lions had three starting linebackers, and besides a few goal-line plays with four linebackers, no one besides the starters saw the field. Plus, the Lions used their nickel package about two-thirds of the time.

Now: Whether Tahir Whitehead or Ashlee Palmer starts at strong-side linebacker, the Lions will rotate their linebackers to give offenses different looks. When Kyle Van Noy (core muscle) returns, he’ll be in the rotation, too.

One of the knocks on former Lions coach Jim Schwartz, left, was his teams weren't disciplined enough. New coach Jim Caldwell, right, is expected to changed that. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News