Lions finally able to use offensive plays that many have wondered about!

I get so much email and if I had to mark one topic that gets the most specific questions it has to do with the Lions redzone offense.  Now I realize that we have many people that love football but don’t understand all the verbiage.  For those people (my Mother mainly) the redzone is from the defenses 20-yard line into the endzone.  It is called that because it is considered red-hot because you have to get a score when you are in that close.

I get asked nearly every day why don’t the Lions take advantage of Roy Williams and use the fade route inside the redzone.  The fade route is when you have a receiver head towards the corner of the endzone and the QB will ideally throw in so far back in the corner that the larger WR will be able to leap up and get the ball in the endzone when the ball is perfectly placed in the corner so that it can’t be intercepted but can be caught by your larger WR.

The Lions have been unable to use this scheme and the fans have clamored for it.  Here is why they couldn’t.  Teams knew that the Lions anemic corp of receivers was just that:  anemic.  So they would sandwich Roy.  They would place a Safety between Roy and the corner of the endzone and then use the CB to “front” Roy or be between him and the QB.  That would have put the QB in the position where there was no hope for a perfect pass because the WR was sandwiched.  When the Lions would try that route Kitna had to look off of it and throw elsewhere. 

Last season the fans were outraged that Mike Williams wasn’t put in for those routes because of his size but the Lions couldn’t use him because he was slow and had trouble getting to the corner.  Early in the season they actually tried it and narrowly avoided an interception because Mike made a less than stellar attempt to “get off” (getting away from the five-yards immediately after the line of scrimmage where the defender can hinder your progress and speed) the line of scrimmage fast enough when “pressed” (hit by the defender very hard within the first five yards off of the line of scrimmage) and basically stopped running.  When you get in the redzone, turnovers are a cardinal sin because you can’t give away the ball when you get there; you have to get points.

So, you all write and ask why they didn’t and there is your answer, now here is the good news.  The Lions all last week in the OTA’s worked on adding this to their reservoir of plays.  I witnessed it personally on Tuesday when I was allowed to be at practice but talked with players about it to see how it progressed.  Because the information is proprietary and I certainly have no desire to hurt the Lions I am not going to give great specifics but here is what I can divulge.

Hypothetically let’s picture the Lions in a three wide set (CJ and Roy in the endzone and Furrey in the slot) and a TE and a back.  They can send two much larger WR’s (Roy and CJ) towards the corners in a dangerous double fade route, Furrey across the middle and a TE in a quick route (simply moves to a middle slot just inside the endzone as fast as he can) as well as a RB in a flare (quickly moves parallel with the line of scrimmage) while the QB is in a shotgun set.  The defense cannot double-team anyone.  Critics will say that teams will use a zone blitz to defend it but a double fade and the ancillary type routes of the slot (middle) receiver, TE and RB simply takes such little time and spreads out the defense so much that there isn’t time.  Kitna will have to identify the open man ASAP but that my friends is the biggest news out of the OTA’s that any of us could want.

I have told you that the Lions didn’t ignore this part of the offense but that they didn’t have the manpower for it.  Now they do.  Now you will see it as part of a redzone package that they worked on all last week.

I can tell you that Kitna didn’t throw one bad pass when they were practicing the fade and Orlovsky looked almost as good.  People may ask why the fade route is so critical and here is that reason.  It is the one play that is indefensible in the football game.  If the receiver has size and is in single coverage, a perfectly thrown ball cannot be defended and the corner of the endzone insures that the WR gets his feet down in bounds.  It is essentially the perfect play.  One that the Lions couldn’t use and the fans were insane (rightfully) about.

There you go folks, something many of you wanted to know, and many of us will be glad to read.  Now I want to see it!  The point is that now we will and almost the entirety of the fan base wanted it, and now we have it.  Most teams have one player with enough decent players surrounding him that they can get him in single coverage.  The Lions simply didn’t have the manpower and now we see the arsenal expanding.

Rod Marinelli talked about practice in the redzone on Tuesday when he said,  “We kind of emphasized our redzone and we’re willing to work on that area – that phase of our game. Our turnover/takeaway ratio has to be better than last year and the redzone (offense) has got to be better on both sides of the ball. We put a nice emphasis on it and it was a good start for us.”