Detroit Lions Need to Use Offensive Weapons Better
Yet, the offense could still use some fine-tuning.
Detroit would benefit from Matthew Stafford playing a better brand of football, as he's only completed 60.7 percent of his passes and thrown for nine touchdowns through five games.
He also recorded a passer rating of just 80.4 against the Jaguars.
But, there is more to the story than simply getting Stafford to improve his level of production.
It's because Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to find a way to get his best offensive weapons more involved in the gameplan on a weekly basis, most notably tight end T.J. Hockenson, wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. and running back D'Andre Swift.
All three individuals possess an ample amount of talent, yet have been underutilized on a consistent basis over the course of the season.
Sure, Swift, Detroit's 2020 second-round pick, had a career day Sunday, rushing 14 times for a career-best 116 yards and two touchdowns.
However, the Jacksonville contest marked his first time carrying the ball more than five times in a game.
I know Bevell & Co. were trying to slowly integrate him into the offense. But, that lack of carries is still a problem, especially when he's your most explosive back.
Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson was decent as the Lions' feature back in the first quarter of the season, with 54 rushes for 245 yards -- good for an average of 4.54 yards per carry -- and a TD through four games.
However, at this juncture in Peterson's career, he'd be most effective as a complementary piece.
It's Swift's time to shine now, and he needs to be deployed as Detroit's No. 1 back the rest of the way this season.
As for Hockenson and Jones, Bevell needs to find a way to get both of them more consistent looks in the passing game.
Hockenson opened up the season looking like he was on the verge of a breakout campaign.
He hauled in at least four receptions for 50 yards in each of the first three games.
But, he's caught just two balls each of the last two games, and although he's recorded a touchdown in each contest, he's amassed only 26 combined yards.
Bevell acknowledged in his weekly media session Tuesday that the second-year tight end has been productive as a run-blocker of late and needs to continue working on some areas of his game as a pass-catcher.
"I think right now, (we're) just looking for him to be more consistent, basically down in and down out," Bevell said. "If you watched this last game, (it was) probably one of his best games, in terms of his overall blocking. I thought he did a really nice job there, kind of took a step forward."
Bevell then commented on what the Iowa product needs to continue to do as a receiver.
"Still, I think there were some things in the pass game that we're looking for him to continue to gain some separations and come through with some big plays for us," Bevell explained.
Hockenson, with his 6-foot-5, 247-pound frame, is a great red-zone target for Stafford, and needs to remain an active part of the team's red-zone offense.
But, it'd also be nice to see Bevell deploy the former first-rounder in ways that get him the ball more frequently over the course of an entire drive -- as was the case earlier in the campaign.
Bevell's biggest task ahead, though, will be to find a way to integrate Jones more into the gameplan on a week-to-week basis.
Jones has caught a measly three combined balls, and has accumulated a total of just 17 yards the past two games. And those three catches have come on a combined seven targets.
That is far from satisfactory from an individual who came into 2020 as the Lions' No. 2 pass-catcher.
The ninth-year pro understandably has been frustrated with his lack of inclusion in the weekly offensive attack.
"Does he want the ball? Absolutely," Bevell commented Tuesday. "Do we want him to have the ball in his hands? Absolutely. And we're going to continue to look for ways and try to get creative to make sure that the ball goes to him.
"Sometimes you have a gameplan that, hey, this play is gonna go to him (and) this play is gonna go to him, too. Then, the defense can dictate a little bit differently, just in terms of what coverage comes. I think he's been fully understanding of that. He knows the opportunities that we've been trying to get him. But, we'll continue to work to get him more involved."
Bevell has not only struggled with getting Jones targets, but also with getting him TD chances.
You have to go all the way back to Week 2 -- during which the Lions played the Green Bay Packers -- for his lone score of the season.
If he continues on his slow pace, he'd end up finishing with just 45 receptions, 467 yards and three TDs -- his worst numbers in all three statistical categories since recording only 18 receptions, 201 yards and a single score during his 2012 rookie campaign with the Cincinnati Bengals.
It's definitely not the type of year that the Lions or Jones himself expected, especially with the veteran wideout being a free agent at season's end.
Moving forward, Bevell needs to do a much better job at featuring Jones, Hockenson and Swift on an every week basis.
And there's no excuse for Bevell not to do so.
They are three of the most explosive players on the offensive side of the ball for Detroit.
And incorporating each of them more readily into the gameplan is the only way in which Bevell's offense will be able to perform at its highest level the remainder of the campaign.
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