ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- For months, they've talked about it. For weeks, they've shown small glimpses of what it might be during Detroit Lions training camp. But Thursday night, for the first time against an opponent in a less-than-controlled setting, Darrell Bevell's new offense should start to finally take shape.
Make no mistake: What the Lions show Thursday against New England will be a version of the final product, a plainer rendition of what the franchise hopes shakes out in the real debut project next month against Arizona. It has left fans and players alike curious to see how all of it ends up looking.
"Yeah, that's where all the excitement comes from," receiver Kenny Golladay said. "The anticipation is really high right now. I'm pretty sure as far as players and coaches, we can't wait for Thursday to come to really see where we are as a team. It's going to be important."
Sure, the preseason doesn't matter a ton. Particularly when it comes to wins and losses because so much of what the Lions and other NFL teams do is based more on player evaluation and minimal scheme than winning and losing the game.
But it will offer glimpses into a much-talked-about, not-yet-fully-known future. The Lions probably will run more multiple tight end sets than they did in the previous offense under Jim Bob Cooter -- perhaps with fewer three-receiver looks. A fullback, which showed up occasionally last season in the form of Nick Bellore or Joe Dahl, should have a more defined role.
Running backs will rotate. If the run game goes well, quarterback Matthew Stafford's strong play-action sense could be more valuable, which might lead to more open downfield shots for Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr.
All of that, though, will evolve as it goes. Thursday will just be the first look.
"My thing is, the preseason is all about making plays, getting out there, getting some hits and getting some hits in and just go, call your stuff and make your plays," Jones said. "This is going to probably look different Thursday than in Week 10."
And it'll look much different than what Detroit ran the final weeks of last season with Cooter in control. At least it should, although no Lions players would say exactly how much different it’ll look, or how much the casual fan might even recognize.
"It's a little bit different style in the huddle for us. It might look a little different," running back Zach Zenner said. "But I think at the end of the day, like all of football, it comes down to beating the man across from you.
"[Bevell's] trying to get us in good spots, good situations, good plays, of course. But it's our job to execute those plays."
Cliché to be sure, but it has the added bonus of being true. If the Lions aren’t able to pull off the plays that are called, the offense will stall. In the preseason, that's OK. It's a learning process. A month from now, that'll be a much bigger problem.
In some ways, there might be too much made of the new scheme. It's going to feature the run, something known because of the philosophy of head coach Matt Patricia, Bevell and data from the offensive coordinator's prior stops. It also should have downfield shots.
Considering all the different options the Lions have tried in the past -- the air raid, a derivative of the Tom Moore offense, something looking like the Saints' offense -- Bevell's plan will try to do what all the others couldn't: turn Detroit's offense into an effective unit. But how much of it will look different to you, the average fan?
That remains to be seen.
"You know what?" Jones asked. "We might just have to see. Let's see if they see a difference or not."