No-huddle energizes Lions' offense

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones has benefitted from the no-huddle offense.

Allen Park — Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter didn’t have much time to implement his offensive schemes after taking over midway through the 2015 season.

But with an entire offseason to work with, Cooter and the Lions’ offense have noticeably ratcheted up the tempo and utilized a no-huddle approach in the preseason.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Lions have used the no-huddle on 62 percent of its preseason snaps compared to 7 percent a year ago. In the two exhibition games, Matthew Stafford is 6-for-6 for 108 yards on passes to Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. from the no-huddle.

“I think if you do it right and you do it well, in general it’s a more efficient way to go about your business,” Cooter said before Wednesday’s practice. “Now does that mean we’re always playing extremely fast? Absolutely not. But it also doesn’t mean that we never do that.

“We like to have all the options at our disposal. Sometimes play fast, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we’re in the huddle, out of the huddle. Whatever we think is best, we’re going to do that.”

In the exhibition opener against the Steelers, the first-team offense ran five of its 12 opening drive plays out of the no-huddle, resulting in an incompletion, a 16-yard reception by Jones, a 2-yard reception by Theo Riddick, an 8-yard run by Riddick and a 7-yard run by Stafford that was negated by a holding penalty.

Then in last week’s exhibition against the Bengals, Stafford completed all five of his passes out of the no-huddle for 92 yards but was also sacked once and fumbled. In plays where the team huddled, Stafford was 3-for-6 passing for 21 yards.

According to Tate, the biggest reason the offense will do well this year is because the up-tempo attack is something Stafford is comfortable with.

“This is something that (Stafford) has wanted and he’s thriving in this right now. He’s out there balling,” Tate said. “He’s comfortable also still learning but he’s slinging it around. He’s looking at defenses and able to get us in the appropriate check. He’s not letting defenses really hone in on us and I like it. He’s playing real confident right now.”

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In the two exhibitions, Stafford has completed 70.6 percent of his passes (12-for-17) for 171 yards and a 102.8 passer rating. While he’s been effective, the first-team offense has only mustered a field goal in its four drives.

Following the 30-14 exhibition loss to the Bengals, Stafford said he was in favor of the offense playing at an even faster pace than it already has.

“The faster you can push the tempo when you want to really just makes it more stressful on the defense,” Stafford said. “If you feel like you’re playing at a normal speed and they think you’re playing really fast, you know it feels a whole lot better for us. But you play fast without executing properly, it doesn’t matter. You got to go out there and be able to play fast and execute.”

Tate said the offense has a couple different styles of the no-huddle it uses and working on it in practice has helped get the defense in shape. When it comes to games, Tate said the advantages of playing up-tempo are it keeps defenses on their toes and doesn’t give defensive coordinators much time to think.

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“From what I can take from it, it doesn’t allow the defenses to settle in. It gets defenses tired,” Tate said. “They don’t get to call these special blitzes and stuff unless they can call them real quickly and I think that’s something we’re going to be able to take advantage of.

“We can wear defenses down, get them playing lazy. We might get them to jump offside, catch them slipping and hit them with a big run because they’re tired.”

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said while the team has been showcasing a no-huddle approach in the preseason, it’s only going to be a dimension of the offense in the regular season.

“It depends on the team that you’re facing, depends on the game, depends on your personality, health of it. It depends on how much the young guys can grasp. How much you want to utilize it, there’s a lot of factors,” Caldwell said. “It’s just one part of what we do from an offensive standpoint that we’ve been working on because of the fact that we haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to do so.

“Going fast and not being effective is just going fast. We want to be effective as well. You’ve got to have pass completions, you’ve got to have runs that have positive yardage and things of that nature to go along with it. We’re more interested in effectiveness than anything else, but we have different ways to certainly go about that.”