Lions emphasize efficiency on offense

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions coach Jim Caldwell said last year the team's goal was for Matthew Stafford to complete 62 percent of his passes.

Stafford fell short of that mark, finishing at 60.3 percent. But he also helped the team finish 11-5 and earn a playoff berth.

Entering Year 2 working with Stafford, Caldwell declined to set any specific goals for the quarterback, but for much of the offseason, he's provided a similar refrain. If the passing game can be more efficient, the offense should improve and give the Lions a chance to win more games.

One of Stafford's goals is the same as it is for every player: win a Super Bowl. But he understands there's a process.

"You've got to make incremental steps," he said Thursday. "You've got to make goals that are attainable for each day.

"If you just have a long-term goal with no plan to get there, it's not going to be successful, so we develop a plan, talk about it day in and day out on how to get better. And if you're playing your best football at the end of the year, you give yourself a good chance."

But the difference between 11-5 and 12-4 could be as simple as a few plays that are executed better.

If Stafford, for example, completed one more pass in each game last year, he would have hit 63 percent. And a little more efficiency this season will would give the Lions more opportunities to take risks down the field.

"It's on me when they do give those shots to not miss them and make sure we're being aggressive," Stafford said.

Stafford said he hasn't set any goals this season, but will spend the next six weeks thinking about them before camp begins in August.

"Obviously, you want to be explosive and efficient at the same time, and the way this league is, if you throw for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns it's usually a successful season," he said. "I'm just going to continue to try getting better, make sure that we're not turning the ball over and making big plays."

One thing that could help Stafford is training in Atlanta with Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron, which he plans to do before August.

"He does have good, high standards and that's good," Caldwell said of Stafford. "I think that's going to help us overall.

"I'm a great believer in self-fulfilling prophecy. Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. So, I do believe that they should have lofty goals, they should have set high standards and hopefully they'll measure up."

Throughout the offseason program, Caldwell said he saw Stafford improve as a leader and said he's on track for what the coaches want to see. Caldwell said Stafford has been better at anticipating where receivers will be and has been quick at relaying calls in the huddle.

Being more comfortable in Year 2 of the offense should help Stafford and the rest of the offense. Caldwell also believes a better grasp of the scheme will help the Lions add some nuances.

"Winning does not necessarily mean that you score 50 points a game," Caldwell said. "A lot of people would like to kind of point and say, 'Well, Matthew's got to do this.' Matthew just has to do his job, right? Plain and simple.

"There's a lot of other guys that have to kind of contribute to that to make this thing go."