Despite finishing just 4-12, the Detroit Lions had the NFL‘s second-best offense last year, statistically, which wasn’t a surprise after Matthew Stafford became just the fourth quarterback in league history to throw for 5,000 yards the previous season. However, the six-game turnaround was a big surprise, especially since it was the wrong way. The Lions finally broke their playoff drought on Stafford’s golden arm in 2011, but it hurt them in 2012 and it will again in 2013 unless they can add more balance to their offensive attack.
Stafford came up 33 yards short of a second straight 5,000-yard passing season last year, but it took him 727 attempts–most in the league by at least 55 (Drew Brees was second with 670)–to do it. That stat alone explains why the Lions fell off so hard in 2012. They ran the ball just 391 times despite a stable of four good running backs at their disposal. Granted, literally all of them faced injuries throughout the year, but at least one of them was healthy at all times.
In 2013, that won’t be the case. Joique Bell and Kevin Smith are both free agents and considering how crowded Detroit’s backfield is and the lack of carries to go around anyway, both players are likely to leave via free agency. Still, the Lions are in good hands with Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, who should each get at least 150 carries this year, assuming they’re healthy.
If Stafford doesn’t have to throw the ball over 700 times, then he can be more picky with his throws and opposing defense won’t be able to get the jump on the ball that they did in 2012. It’s easy to defend something when you know it’s coming, so the Lions are going to have to mix things up on offense with Best and Leshoure. Of course, having an offensive line that can open holes is another problem entirely, but Detroit has enough talent on the ground to have success there if they just utilize it properly.