Allen Park — Before many Saints plays, quarterback Drew Brees repeatedly shouts “kill” to signal which of the two called plays the offense will run.
Brees and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning have as much pre-snap control as anyone in the league, and with three coaches who worked with them on the Lions staff, Matthew Stafford should have more autonomy this season.
“A lot of it’s built in as far as the kills, the checks, all the alerts,” Stafford said after minicamp Wednesday. “But there’s some freedom for sure to change routes and do things like that.”
Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi spent the past seven seasons working with Brees, and has Lions players watching a significant amount of Saints tape to help them learn his scheme.
Stafford, who has had some pre-snap freedom, also will be learning from coach Jim Caldwell, who guided Manning with the Colts, and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter, who was with Manning with the Colts and Broncos.
So far, it looks like Stafford’s primary pre-snap call will be “Omaha,” like Manning, but the control is more important than the language.
“It obviously kinds of gives you the chalk last,” Stafford said. “And that’s what you’re looking for when you play quarterback.”
With all of the weapons the Lions have, the ability to change the play at the line should help them exploit mismatches. Wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are exceptional after the catch, so when defensive backs sag in coverage, Stafford can have them run shorter routes.
Caldwell said Stafford will have more pre-snap duties the longer he spends in the offense, but trusts his quarterback to adjust plays.
“He’s done it before, he has a good understanding of it, and he even does some now,” Caldwell said. “That’s kind of part of the package because he’s got to have a little bit of autonomy from time to time to get you in the right play.
“You may be able to call a play, but he’s out there on the field. He can see it happening. He can see the defense, so there’s some times we have some overriding checks and things of that nature that we’ll utilize.”
And, Caldwell “certainly” will encourage Stafford to make changes on the field.
“It’s part of playing that position,” he said.
Stafford has looked precise the first two days of minicamp, and more comfortable than the portions of organized team activities open to the media. His main focus is learning every detail of the offense. So far, the staff has done a lot of work with Stafford’s footwork, a problem that hurt him the past two years.
Caldwell also added an overhead “ladder cam” that films Stafford and the other quarterbacks from a different angle, something he first used as an assistant at Colorado in 1982.
“The big thing is that we can look at his mechanics — every little detail of it,” Caldwell said. “That’s his camera, and what we do with that is just try to hone in and just try to perfect his craft.”
While the camera shows what quarterbacks see down the middle of the field, the emphasis is on watching technique.
“It’s good for a quarterback and a quarterbacks coach to go over just where your feet are, where your head is, where your eyes are, where the ball gets places,” Stafford said.