Glasgow Says Lions' Run-First Offense Like Harbaugh's At Michigan

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Photo credit © Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In a league dominated by the pass, Darrell Bevell and the Lions are ready to run their own route. Their offense this season will be built on the ground. 

Bevell said as much earlier this summer, and the plan has begun to take shape through the early stages of training camp. 

"Right now it looks like we’re running the ball a lot more, and that’s something that we’ve been talking about," said guard Graham Glasgow on Tuesday. "I think that’s going to be good for us, maybe being a more balanced offense. But you can see it, I can see it. I think that it’s going well so far."

It's why Bevell is here. His history as an offensive coordinator is defined by rushing the football. The Lions have a potential star in Kerryon Johnson and the parts up front to pave the way, and they intend to put this formula to use in 2019. 

Asked if it reminds him of any offense he's been a part of in the past, Glasgow pointed to his senior season at Michigan. 

"In the actual percentage of run and pass, maybe under Harbaugh in college," he said. "But everybody’s terminology is different, everybody’s scheme of everything is different. It’s similar in the sense of ideology, but in actual scheme it’s all different." 

Much like Bevell, Jim Harbaugh has always valued the run. In 2015, Glasgow's lone season under Harbaugh, the Wolverines ran the ball about six more times per game (37.8) than they passed it (31.9). 

If the splits are similar this season for the Lions, it will represent an extreme departure from the norm -- in more ways than one. 

First, how many teams in the NFL these days actually run it more than they throw it? Well, a total of two last season: the Seahawks and the Titans. Seattle finished 10-6 and made the playoffs, Tennessee went 9-7 and just missed. The records bear mention because, for as much as the NFL has fallen in love with the pass, just two of the league's top five passing teams last year made the playoffs -- versus four of its top five rushing teams. 

Second, how many Lions teams of recent memory actually ran it more than they threw it? None, as far as the Matthew Stafford era is concerned. And they've never come close. In Stafford's eight full seasons, dating back to 2011, Detroit has averaged 14.9 more passes per game than runs. (You may be aware they haven't won a playoff game in this span.) The most balanced they've ever been was last year, and they still threw it almost 11 more times per game than they ran it. 

It's no coincidence this happened in Matt Patricia's first season. For better or worse, Patricia wants to slow the game down on offense. He wants to control the clock by emphasizing the run. When the ball changes hands, he'll rely on his defense to be the difference. With the way that defense is shaping up, it's not a bad plan.