ALLEN PARK, Mich. With Dan Campbell on his first round as full-time head coach, the Detroit Lions needed assistants who could convey their vision and judgment to their new leader on the field.
And in offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, the Lions think they’ve found him. He’s 52 and has traveled all over the league: Denver, Jacksonville, Dallas, Cleveland, New York (Jets), Buffalo and the last four seasons in Los Angeles as head coach of the Chargers.
He groomed the backs, worked with special teams, was an assistant head coach and coordinated the offense for a season with the Bills. And that’s exactly what Detroit expects from him: to be an experienced voice for Campbell and to build a versatile offense around the new quarterback.
Misunderstanding. The film does not show specified.that head coach Dan Campbell is relatively inexperienced in his role. Anthony Lynn (above), as offensive coordinator, provides Campbell with experienced experts to draw from. Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Campbell also has other experiences he can draw from at the NFL level. Mark Brunell, a three-time professional bowler, is the coach of Detroit’s quarterbacks. Although this is his first job in the NFL – his other coaching experience is as a high school head coach and mentor for quarterbacks transitioning from college to the NFL – he can draw on 19 years of experience as a player as the Lions prepare for life without Matthew Stafford. And he will have a 10-year NFL veteran and 10-year NFL coach, Duce Staley, as assistant head coach/back coach, the same role he had in Philadelphia.
So Lynn may not have much experience as a player, but he will be able to draw on many experienced NFL voices. And Lynn’s teams, when the offense was at least partially under his control, showed a mastery of their ability to run and pass.
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In 2016, Lynn had the highest margin in the NFL in terms of yards per game (164.4) and yards per attempt (5.35). This was largely at the expense of the team’s best offensive option, LeSean McCoy, who ran for 1,267 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this season.
Tyrod Taylor – a player the Lions have watched since working with Lynn in Buffalo and Los Angeles – was his quarterback. The Bills didn’t have many passers (No. 30 in the league), but Taylor made 61.7 percent of his passes for 3,023 yards and 17 touchdowns with six steals. Lynn also had a number of talented receivers. Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and the Goodwin Marquee all came into the scoring column.
Misunderstanding. specified.T.J. Hockenson‘s specified.film specified.this season, not an specified.All-Pro, could continue to shine in Anthony Lynn’s offense, which makes excellent use of tight ends. Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
What could be a good sign for T.J. Hockenson, one of the Lions’ best offensive linemen, is that Lynn uses a tight side in his offense. In Buffalo, Charles Clay had 57 catches for 552 yards and four touchdowns. Clay, 31, came out of the NFL last season, but he has plenty of experience with this coaching staff. He spent his first four seasons in the league at Miami with Campbell as head coach and then Lynn worked with him at Buffalo.
Although Lynn’s offense seemed very tough when he joined the Chargers, he was open to a very different philosophy. Although he did not announce a game for the Chargers, in 2017 they had the No. 1 offense in yards per game (276.9) and the No. 4 offense in yards per game (376.6) and yards per game (5.91).
QB Philip Rivers and WR Keenan Allen were the catalysts, but the offense also rallied on 1,000 yards in Melvin Gordon (1,155 yards – something Detroit hasn’t had since 2013).
The following season, the Chargers were among the top 10 passing teams (255.6 yards, 7.99 yards per shot) and among the top 15 passing teams (117.1 yards per game, 4.69 yards per shot). Lynn Chargers had a less fearsome two-way offense in 2019 as Rivers, Allen and Mike Williams were the top 10 passing teams (276.6 yards per game, 7.41 yards per attempt) in the contest with a tenacious running game (90.8 yards per game, 3.97 yards per attempt).
Part of this situation may have to do with the results of the ….5-11 team. Gordon played only 12 games and averaged less than 4 yards per carry. Austin Ekeler became just as important and was more of a dual threat in return with 92 catches and 993 yards.
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Last season, Lynn’s first without Rivers, had rookie Justin Herbert, primarily on offense. The Chargers still ranked sixth in yards per play (270.6), but 17th in yards per shot (6.9). In the running game, without a consistent back because of Eckeler’s injuries, he averaged 111.5 yards per game, but only 3.83 yards per attempt.
What does this mean for Lions?
Lynn can introduce a “run-heavy” or “pass-heavy” offense, so he can adapt to what works or doesn’t work, as can his staff. Given what Campbell is looking for offensively, that fits.
“That’s my philosophy on offense and defense. We’re going to set up a system that makes the best of the worst. That’s what we’re going to do, because that’s what we did in New Orleans,” Campbell said. “We’re going to find a way for our guys to play individually, whether it’s a run or a pass. If you say our left tackle is better than their right end and we can get out of the zone all day – we’ll get out of the zone as long as we cut the back. Why shouldn’t we?
“If we can exploit the weaknesses, we will.”
Wrong – specified.D’Andre Swift is the Lions’ main driver and should develop even more in 2021. David Rosenbloom/Sportswire Icon
Without knowing the roster, it’s hard to predict these forces. Detroit has five players competing on offense: Taylor Decker, guard Jonah Jackson, center Frank Ragnow, D’Andre Swift and Hockenson.
Given what Lynn has put up over the past five seasons, Campbell’s approach and the skills of the Detroit players, Swift and Hockenson could be the biggest beneficiaries.
Swift can get through the middle and has enough range to be a problem for backups and opponent security. Hockenson has become a professional bowler this season and can grow on his own as an option.
Ekeler and TE Hunter Henry in Los Angeles and Clay and McCoy in Buffalo are evidence of Lynn’s possible offensive philosophy in Detroit. Since the Lions may have a starting quarterback, or if Taylor does not sign in Detroit, a veteran exploring a new system with possibly limited offseason work, the use of Swift and Hockenson could increase from last season.
Last year, Swift had 114 strikes for 521 yards and eight touchdowns and 46 strikes for 357 yards and two touchdowns. Hockenson was second to the Lions in catches (101), receptions (67), yards (723) and touchdowns (six).
They are both under the age of 25, so Lynn can count on them in the present and future as Detroit rebuilds its offense.