Scouting report: Lions offense

Nov. 18, 2012

Here is a scouting report on the Lions'offense based on conversations with scouts and coaches. The Lions' offense is coordinated by former St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan and rank No. 2 in the NFL in yards but only No. 13 in points, and No. 24 in rushing yards per game.

Run offense

Primary halfback Mikel Leshoure (6-0, 233), a second-round draft pick last year, missed his rookie season because of a torn Achilles tendon. Some scouts consider him an impressive talent with the quick feet of smaller back with the power to match his size. He's rushed for 418 yards on 105 carries (4.0-yard average) this season.

In recent weeks the Lions have gone extensively to a jumbo package with backup rookie tackle Riley Reiff as a fullback or extra tight end -- he played 33 snaps against Jacksonville two weeks ago and 21 last week.

The backfield depth is OK with Joique Bell (5-11, 220) and Kevin Smith (6-1, 217). Bell is averaging 4.4 yards on 44 carries and is the third-down back (30 catches, 10.2-yard average). Smith rushed for 976 yards as a rookie in 2008 and averaged 4.9 yards a carry after getting signed off the street in midseason.

The Lions' best run blocker is Gosder Cherilus (6-7, 325), who at 28 and in his fifth season has grown into a solid right tackle because he's become more patient over the last year or so.

Pass offense

The Lions rank No. 1 in the NFL in passing yards, though some of that is the product of playing mostly from behind. They have a talented young quarterback in Matthew Stafford, though he hasn't played as well as last season, and the game's best playmaker at receiver in Calvin Johnson.

Stafford (6-3, 232) has good size, great arm strength, good accuracy and is an above-average athlete. He's only 24, so his future looks bright even though his mediocre 85.4 rating this season reflects he's still forcing too many throws (eight interceptions to 11 touchdown passes).

Johnson (6-5, 236) is a physical wonder but has been playing all season on a bad knee, so his deep speed isn't what it was. Still, he leads the NFL in receiving yards (974) and is catching everything in his vicinity. The stat that jumps out is two touchdown receptions after he caught 28 in the previous two seasons combined. Though the knee injury probably is a factor, he's also been tackled inside the 2-yard line five times.

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (6-5, 265) has been Stafford's No. 2 target the past couple of years and has 42 receptions, which ranks No. 7 in the NFL among tight ends. He's had a few more drops than usual but is a big target who lacks only speed (9.9-yard average per catch).

Former starting receiver Nate Burleson is out for the season because of a broken leg, but that hasn't necessarily hurt the Lions much, because second-year pro Titus Young (5-11, 174) and rookie Bryan Broyles (5-10, 188) have improved the receiving corps' athleticism. Young is a diva with much better long speed than his 11.2-yard average per catch suggests. Broyles, a second-round draft pick, has more quickness than speed and the savvy to play his best out of the slot (13 catches, 11.2-yard average).

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