There’s this great show on Netflix that I’m sure a lot of you have already watched. It’s called “Last Chance U.” The first two seasons of the docu-series follows the East Mississippi Community College football team that carries a lot of players that had a shot at Division 1 football and failed for a myriad of reasons. With their initial football dreams deferred, the players headed to the JUCO leagues in an effort to rehabilitate their college careers and head back up to the upper level of college football.
I was watching a commercial for this show the other day and it made me think about the Detroit Lions. There’s some parallels here. While the players I’m talking about today aren’t dealing with the same type of issues the players on the show are, in a lot of ways this is their last chance to make their mark. With the Lions roster set up the way it is, it may also be the best chance for these players to finally get over.
With all that said, here is the group of players that I’m dubbing the “Last Chance Lions” of 2021.
How much longer can the Lions wait for Hand to click? After a phenomenal rookie year in 2018, Hand has seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth. Since then, Lions fans have been waiting for Hand to transition into the player they’d hoped he be.
2021 has to be the year for Hand. His contract is up after this upcoming season, and he is literally on his last chance in Detroit. New defensive line coach Todd Wash could be the answer for Hand. He’s had success with the Jaguars and their “Sacksonville” defensive line, as well as stops in Seattle and Tampa Bay that showed some promise.
This one almost feels like a lost cause. The big difference between Tavai and the other players on this list is that Tavai might not even get the 2021 season to prove himself. It’s been that bad. It’s all speculation at this point, but Tavai will probably need to show out at training camp just to make the team.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for Tavai. He’ll have to stand out with Jamie Collins, Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes and probably Jalen Reeves-Maybin essentially ahead of him at this point. All these guys are more athletic than him and bring more to the table. The Lions may not have the space to carry a fifth off-the-ball linebacker. New linebacker coach Mark DeLeone has some history helping linebackers get on track. He helped Bears linebacker Roquan Smith have his best career year in 2020 after Smith struggled early on. DeLeone seems to like Tavai as well. This could ultimately help the linebacker out.
Lions ILB coach Mark DeLeone says he's been "really impressed" with Jahlani Tavai. Says he's seen Tavai on the field and he's in good shape.— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) May 20, 2021
Can he fix Tavai? I just don’t know about this one.
If the Last Chance Lions were a team, Perriman would be the captain. The former 26th overall pick is now on his sixth team and it’s been a long road to this point. Perriman has shown flashes during his career. You may remember the time he went for 113 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions in 2019.
Despite moments like that, he just hasn’t clicked in the NFL. Going on 28 this season, time is running out for Perriman.
The good news is that this might be his best chance. Everywhere Perriman has gone he’s been outshined and out-targeted by a better receiver. At this point, he may be the best receiver on the Lions roster. It’s not hard to believe that he might be the Lions number one receiver going into the season.
This is probably it for Perriman. He’s got a one-year deal and one season to show that he can be more than just a number three or four guy in the NFL. Seeing as though he’s pushing 30, there’s a good chance that there won’t be any teams looking to sign him if things don’t work out in Detroit. This could be his last year in the NFL if things go really sideways. This truly is Perriman’s last chance.
Can he follow in his dad’s footsteps and be a good receiver for the Lions?
Alright, hear me out. I know there’s some thought out there that I’m a huge Jared Goff fan. So, naturally, it may surprise you that I put him on this list. But the truth is that Goff is at a real fork in the road right now.
Goff is in no danger of being out of a job entirely. He’s a guy that’s going to be in the NFL in one juncture or another for a long time. The real question is what will that juncture actually be?
Right now the rap on Goff is that he’s not good quarterback and that the Rams moved on from him for a legitimate reason. It’s now on him to prove that wrong in Detroit. Nobody is expecting him to help lead the Lions to the playoffs in 2021, but he certainly can establish that he’s the Lions quarterback of the future and stave off the Lions moving on from him or drafting a quarterback to replace him at some point.
How short is the time frame that he has to prove himself though? It’s arguably 2021 or bust right? If Goff puts up good numbers and looks good, it won’t matter if the Lions are bad. They can continue to build around him. If he has a bad season, it could be over in Detroit, and he’s likely on his way to career backup status.
It’s not Goff’s last chance to be a quarterback in the NFL, it’s his last chance to be a star quarterback. Can he make it happen?