When is it time to start worrying about Jim Bob Cooter's offense?

Every week, we take some of your questions for a Detroit Lions Mailbag. To ask a question for a future Mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter, email me at michael.rothstein@espn.com or check in on Facebook.

Now, on to this week’s questions.


This is a completely fair question considering the issues the Lions had offensively in 2017 and what they showed Monday night against the Jets. I wouldn’t quite go to calling the offense a disaster yet -- mostly because it had so many things fail that it could have been an avalanche of issues type of thing. I’m curious to see what happens Sunday in San Francisco. The offense should, in theory, be much better -- even if Matthew Stafford just improves to his average performance.

It’s tough to make a move quickly on the coordinator considering the Lions chose to keep him and many of the assistants as part of the new staff. But if the offense doesn’t improve -- and the run game/overall blocking doesn’t get better -- then the questions should start coming fairly quickly. The thought in the past could have been that it was Jim Caldwell’s influence and his history of never producing a strong running game that was holding Cooter back. But Caldwell is no longer the coach. The offense, for at least a week, still had the same problems. If that persists, then it is clearly a Cooter-based problem.

This is a legitimate concern. There’s no question Matt Patricia’s defense is difficult to pick up and the nuance is often picked up over time. It’s why moves like signing veterans Marquis Flowers and Ricky Jean Francois were logical additions because they at least understood what was supposed to happen.

The real trick, though, is in the front seven, where the Lions are converting from a 4-3 to a 3-4/multiple base. In truth, some players aren’t fits for that -- at least part of the reason why Anthony Zettel is now with the Cleveland Browns. I go back to something Kelvin Beachum said after facing the Lions on Monday night to help explain the issues.

Beachum said the defense looked -- in what they were trying to do -- like a Patriots defense, but that it wasn’t there yet.

“They are a 4-3 team trying to do 3-4 principles,” Beachum said. “They are a 4-3 penetrating type of team, and now they are trying to be a two-gapping team. So they have some things to work on, just like we have things to work on.”

In other words -- no, not there yet. I would anticipate, at least on some level, that the Lions improve throughout the year defensively.


I’m not sure how much more they can give him. Golladay played 65 of 70 offensive snaps -- more than any other player who isn’t an offensive lineman. So they are giving him the work like he’s a No. 1 -- or No. 1A -- receiver. He had 12 targets, second only to Golden Tate. And his seven catches for 114 yards was, by far, the best receiving day of any player. I wouldn’t expect this weekly -- Marvin Jones and Tate will have really good days in this offense, too. But he’s more in the conversation now as a receiver, who from a fantasy perspective should be started at least as a FLEX every week. And in real life, if the Lions can get all three of Golladay, Tate and Jones going, they'll be very, very difficult to cover. It’s a best-case scenario for the passing game.

Not now. If the Lions are going to make a run at Le’Veon Bell, I can’t see it happening until he hit free agency. There would likely be too much capital that would have to be given up to have that happen. And there’s also this: Detroit just invested in Kerryon Johnson. He’s shown flashes and is both younger and has much less wear-and-tear on his body than Bell does. So I’d want to see what he can do first before thinking about plunking a bunch of money into a running back who hasn’t been in my system before.