Statistically Speaking: The Lions Passing Game in the Red Zone

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The Lions first team offense did not score a touchdown in the preseason and that has a lot of people saying that the Lions are going to struggle to produce points in the red zone. Somehow people still seem to be thinking that preseason statistics matter, and that they are indicative of what teams and players will do in the regular season. Teams do not scheme in the preseason, and they do in the regular season. The decision making process by the offensive coordinator goes from “I want to see how well my team can execute this play” to “I think this play will work for my personnel against this opponent right now.” These are not statistics that have any value in predicting regular season results.

Matthew Stafford in the Red Zone

Matthew Stafford did not throw a touchdown in the preseason! The Lions offense is clearly in trouble and has no ability to connect in the red zone now that Calvin Johnson is gone! Calm yourself. Stafford is far from the only quarterback in the NFL that did not throw a touchdown pass in the preseason. Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck, and Jay Cutler also did not throw touchdown passes. With zero touchdown passes and an interception Stafford still managed a passer rating of 88.7 in the preseason. In fact if Golden Tate hadn’t dropped the ball in the end zone – if it hits both your hands in the NFL, it should be a catch – you could add Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rogers, Cam Newton, and Marcus Mariota, to the list of starting quarterbacks that were on par with Stafford in red zone production. Players who produced a lot of passing touchdowns in the preseason include such dignitaries as Matt Barkley, Sean Mannion, Tom Savage, Joe Callahan, Ryan Mallet, Bryce Petty, Ryan Nassib, and Joe Webb. Matthew Stafford is going to be fine.

Players who did not throw a touchdown pass in the 2015 preseason: Derek Carr, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rogers, and Jaemis Winston. There are also examples of players who failed to throw a touchdown pass, and failed miserably, but if anything that simply shows how little predictive value preseason statistics have. Last season, when Stafford had three preseason touchdown passes, is a perfect example of how much the preseason does not matter. The same offense that looked deadly in the preseason had it’s offensive coordinator on the street looking for work by the half way point of the 2015 season.

But the Lions Receivers Are not Tall Enough to Score

Among last season’s top fifteen wide receivers in touchdown receptions were Doug Baldwin (5’10”), Odell Beckham jr. (5’11”), DeAndre Hopkins (6’1″), Antonio Brown (5’10”), Ted Ginn (5’11”), Brandin Cooks (5’11”), Michael Crabtree (6’1″), and Sammy Watkins (6’1″). Each and every one of those men is shorter than Marvin Jones (6’2″) and all but Ginn and Cooks have similar straight line speed to that of the Lions’ receiver duo of Jones and Golden Tate. More than half of the NFL’s most prolific scorers from the wide receiver position were in the same size range as the Lions’ receivers and that leads to the following question. Is it that the Lions’ receivers are not going to be able to get open in the red zone because they’re not 6’4″ or that they won’t be able to make plays on deep balls because they’re not 6’4″? I have heard both assertions and yet somehow, magically it would seem, these other players with very similar physical profiles are scoring a lot of touchdowns. I am going to assume that the Lions have looked in to how they’re doing it in the red zone and will be implementing similar plays until proven otherwise. The idea that mid sized to short receivers can’t score is a myth, statistically speaking.

You can find me @A5hcrack or in the lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Ash Thompson
Ash Thompson is a fanatical football fan, and less fanatical hockey fan despite his Canadian heritage. He is sorry aboot that. His spirit animal is a beaver with a shark's head. He enjoys maple syrup and tacos, but never at the same time.