Jim Bob Cooter’s stock rises with Lions’ offense

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions running back Ameer Abdullah takes a reception into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Allen Park – A little more than a year ago, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was so popular, fans started a mock presidential campaign. But by the midpoint of this season, the luster had worn off for those same fans.

His play-calling was labeled predictable, the offense wasn’t living up to its potential and some wondered if he should actually be on the hot seat. But in recent weeks, Cooter’s stock appears to be back on the rise.

In the four games since the Lions’ bye week, the team has averaged nearly 400 yards of offense, against some of the NFL’s better defenses. And despite a dismal effort in the red zone the first game of that stretch – an 0-5 dud in a loss to Pittsburgh – that issue is also trending positively. The Lions have converted 62.5 percent of their red-zone trips into touchdowns the past three games.

A prime example of the improvement near the goal line was Ameer Abdullah’s two-yard touchdown reception in Sunday’s victory over the Chicago Bears. The route benefitted from a designed pick and left the back uncovered out of the backfield.

“It was awesome,” Abdullah said. “We just caught them in the right matchup.”

More: Wojo: Flawed Lions still getting it done

Asked if the play was an audible called by Matthew Stafford at the line, Abdullah made sure Cooter got the credit.

“Oh no, that’s Jim Bob,” Abdullah said. “It’s all Jim Bob.”

Cooter has also been creative with his deployment of Jamal Agnew, turning the team’s lethal return man into a gadget player capable of generating big plays. A fake end-around to the rookie resulted in a 40-yard pass play against the Bears.

And while Detroit’s run game largely continues to sputter, and may be irreparable, Cooter has the Lions’ passing game clicking, highlighted by a more aggressive downfield attack.

Stafford has attempted 21 passes 20 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage the past four games, completing 11 for 367 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s tied for the most deep completions during that stretch, and Stafford has a 137.4 passer rating on those throws.