By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT - Almost done with reviewing the film of the 2014 season, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has been encouraged by what he has seen, Lombardi said Tuesday at the team's town hall meeting with season ticket holders.
"The exciting thing is just knowing how much better we can be," Lombardi said. "We had our ups and downs offensively, obviously. We're looking for a big jump going into our second year."
Lombardi came to Detroit from the New Orleans Saints, where quarterback Drew Brees and company have often racked up eye-popping pass numbers. Detroit's new offense is patterned after the one used by the Saints, but the Lions did not compile such statistics in 2014. They did, however, go 11-5 and made the playoffs.
As long as the Lions continue to win, the numbers will be a secondary focus, but Lombardi knows the offense is capable of more and wants to see it realize its potential.
"The thing that can help any team be more consistent is staying healthy," Lombardi said. "We had so many moving parts. Certainly [wide receiver] Calvin [Johnson] was out a little bit, and we had some tight end injuries, but I think the offensive line, the injuries that we had to deal with there was as big a factor as anything. I think that if we can stay healthy, but also just the players having one more year to get familiar with [the system]."
For the offense as a whole to improve, the Lions certainly need more from talented quarterback Matthew Stafford, and the offensive coordinator plans to help him as much as he can.
"We as coaches, certainly after looking at the season of film, we've been able to dial in a little bit better, hey, what is he most comfortable and most successful at?" Lombardi said. "So we'll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he's good at."
That strategy may include giving Stafford more leeway to make big plays.
"Our biggest thing is, in order to win football games, you've got to first not lose them, and I thought that he played smart football, and sometimes to a fault," Lombardi said. "We'll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football. He's got the arm to do it. He's got the receivers to throw it to."
Head coach Jim Caldwell had stressed the previous week at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix that Stafford does not need to take a huge leap forward in productivity but rather continue to steadily improve. Caldwell also said the team will not throw much more than it did in 2014, but he still sees plenty of ways the Lions can rack up more yards.
"You think about this," Caldwell said Tuesday at the town hall meeting. "I think he threw it 602 times. We had 239 incompletions. If we just do better in terms of our completion percentage - now that's not all on him, sometimes there's drops and things of that nature - but then also we had 45 sacks, so there were like 284 ... opportunities that we had still within our grasp that we can get better in.
"He threw a little bit over 60 percent," Caldwell added. "If he can get to 62, 63 percent, I think everybody's going to be happy with the way in which he plays."
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