Joe Lombardi went through the fire this season as Detroit's first-year play-caller.
The Lions' offensive coordinator recently acknowledged that one of his bigger challenges was learning how to best use star wideout Calvin Johnson. While possessing one of the game's most dangerous weapons amounted to a raging positive, Lombardi said the challenge came in adjusting to "how people play him."
"Minnesota was playing him a certain way in that home game and it was pretty effective, so at halftime we put in a new route, which I almost never do," Lombardi told Tim Twentyman of the team's official website. "I don't like putting in a route we haven't practiced. I don't know how many yards he got off it, 20-some yards, but if they are going to play him like this we have to run this route."
Lombardi learned down the stretch to pack in extra plays for Megatron to counter what teams did on a weekly basis. Twentyman noted that former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan used to chuckle at the wide array of coverages Johnson would attract -- and learned to play off those looks -- something Lombardi had to adjust to on the fly.
"I don't want to say (Johnson) makes it more difficult because he really makes it easier," Lombardi said. "But there are added layers of complexity when you have a player that can be that dominant.
"If they play like this than maybe we go to this. There is definitely a comfort level in watching film during the week and saying this is who they are, this is what they are going to do and I'm not sure you can ever do that with him."
While Detroit's offense was a hot-and-cold act all season, Lombardi still milked 1,000-yard campaigns out of Johnson and fellow wideout Golden Tate. With another year under his belt, Detroit's young play-caller is a good bet to improve this weapon-rich attack in 2015.
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