We’re getting ever closer to the 2021 Detroit Lions season. Training camp is right around the corner. Right now we’re in the middle of every football fans favorite time of year: that time right after minicamp and before training camp. I call it “no man’s land.”
The fun thing about no man’s land is that nobody can get hurt by their team right now and it’s the perfect time to think about what could happen when the regular season gets up and going. For all 32 fanbases, it’s a time to be optimistic, because there is no reason not tobe.
So this week we’re going to bring up, but then we’re going to bring you down. Today we’ll talk about some prime reasons you should have some hope for this Lions team in 2021. Later, we’ll tell you why you shouldn’t. See you on the other side.
It’s really easy to look at this coaching staff at first glance and notice there are guys with little-to-no history coaching in the NFL ranks. Outside of Anthony Lynn, pretty much every guy is in their new position for the first time in their careers. That’s one way to look at it.
Another way to look at it is this. The Lions coaching staff is full of former players that bring a fresh, relatable perspective to the game. By this I mean this is group of guys who know what’s happening on the field and know how to coach players because they’re players who once knew how they liked to be coached.
That goes a long way for players on the field right now. They know the guys giving them direction have done it before and they know that they can take what the coaches are saying and apply it.
Mark Brunell working with Jared Goff is the most exciting situation, if you ask me. Goff can really take some cues from the three-time Pro Bowler.
Jared Goff might be better than anyone thought
It’s super early. Like way too early to really even buy into this. But the reports out of OTAs and minicamp are that Goff has looked great. We’ve done our own deep dives into Goff’s play and his stats and the results are more positive than many think.
Goff appears to be the real deal. While more than likely a downgrade from Stafford, the Lions certainly sound like they don’t think it’s a huge step down. Lions GM Brad Holmes said in a recent interview that Goff is not the bridge quarterback to a better player.
The offensive line could be elite
Now we’re really having fun. The Lions offensive line has gone from one of their biggest weaknesses to their biggest strength on paper. Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow are both coming off great seasons. Add the Lions new first-round draft pick Penei Sewell into the mix and that’s a pretty good set up right there.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai will move back into his normal spot of right guard. In 2020, he had his best performances when he played at right guard. Check out his PFF grades for those games.
Sure, not all of that is great, but it’s important to remember that Vaitai dealt with some injuries in 2020 and it really affected his play. The other big question here is Jonah Jackson. We took a look at his rookie year snaps recently and the belief is that there could be some real improvement from him in 2021 after a promising rookie year.
Players with something to prove
You can’t really measure the chips on guys’ shoulders in any way since every person is different. But, theoretically speaking, a chip on the shoulder makes a guy work harder than usual to prove something.
The Lions roster is full of guys like that. Jared Goff is chief among them after being traded, but it’s guys like Breshad Perriman and Michael Brockers that immediately come to mind. Perriman is looking to prove that he’s not the first-round draft bust that so many think he is. The Lions represent his biggest chance to do that since he’ll probably get way more than the 60 receptions he got with the Jets in 2020.
Michael Brockers probably wants to prove that he’s not aging out and the Rams made a mistake trading him.
There’s no telling what a group of guys with something to prove can do, but if it’s something good, the Lions could shock some people.
That’s it. Just D’Andre Swift.
Alright there’s more. Swift showed a lot of promise in 2020. There was clearly a difference in the way the offense performed when he was on the field last season. The circumstances in 2021 are sure to be different.
The Lions are going to want to establish the run a lot more to set up play action situations for Jared Goff who once was the best statistical play-action quarterback in the league. Swift is sure to capitalize on this by being the Lions’ lead running back. He’ll split with Jamaal Williams, but he’s the guy. There’s no more Adrian Peterson around to take way too many carries.
While we’ll see plenty of his work in the run game, it’s the pass game where Swift could bring a new wrinkle to the Lions offense. Swift posted a 69.4 receiving grade in 2020. In other words, Swift has the potential to be the centerpiece of this offense this year, and if he continues to build upon his rookie performance, the Lions offense may have one of the deadliest weapons in the backfield.