ALLEN PARK, Michigan — Detroit offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi says despite the Lions' success, he was too aggressive trying to install a new offensive system.
"We probably did too much too fast last year," Lombardi said Tuesday. "There's a level of comfort that you need your players to have so that they can react to what is happening on the field without having to concentrate on the scheme. We weren't always doing that."
Now the extra cramming sessions may pay dividends.
"This year, because our veterans did have to learn so much ... we're a lot farther along than we probably would have been with a slower install," he said. "As we are adding more options to the system this time, they are picking things up at a much quicker pace."
Lombardi said the changes to this year's offense won't be drastic, he's simply looking for different ways to use the same schemes he developed last season.
"We're talking about running things out of different formations or be able to do different things with each personnel group," he said. "It won't look different, but there will be more ways to do what we want to do."
Coach Jim Caldwell was startled when told that Lombardi had been discussing the failures of his first year as a coordinator.
"If that's what Joe told you, I can't argue with him, but I certainly don't think any coach has to apologize for an 11-win season and making it to the playoffs," Caldwell said. "Obviously, we want to win more games this season, and there is room for all of us to improve. But he certainly doesn't have to reinvent the wheel to do that."
Lombardi will look for improvement from second-year tight end Eric Ebron. Picked 10th overall in the first round last year, Ebron dropped numerous passes and finished with just 25 catches for 248 yards and a touchdown.
Ebron has had a better camp this year, drawing praise from Caldwell and Matt Stafford. Until Tuesday, he refused to answer questions. When he broke his silence, he talked about playing hurt as a rookie.
"I came out of college with a lot of nicks and bruises, and I was never really healthy last year," Ebron said. "This year I have a new trainer, and I feel great."
He acknowledged some self-doubt after his tough first year, but eventually convinced himself he was ready to play at this level.
"To me, my rookie season was not a disappointment," he said. "It might have been to everyone else, but for me it was just a learning experience. I learned what I learned, and now my sophomore season is going to be 20 times better than I was as a rookie."
That might be a big ask, but a step in the right direction. It would take pressure off Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to carry the entire offense, especially with the Lions still trying to build a quality ground game.