After weeks ago, Jeremy Reisman asked which position group was the most concerning. As expected, the wide receivers and linebackers were points of panic in the comments. To ease some worries, let us instead focus on some excitement.
The regular season is finally here. After a year without preseason football, even a limited three game stretch was exciting for fans eager to see the Detroit Lions play. However, strategy played a minor part in the preseason, so it remains to be seen what this Lions team can truly do.
There are multiple positions to be excited about, especially on offense. Jared Goff is the new quarterback in town, and that alone sparks interest. The Lions had Matthew Stafford for nearly a decade, so a new player leading the team is a sight to behold, whether for good or for bad. D’Andre Swift has been a hyped-up star, but we can only hope he shakes the injury bug. T.J. Hockenson, meanwhile, is looking to build upon a Pro Bowl season. With the wide receiver woes, he may have to. Newly acquired Trinity Benson will be interesting to watch, but the optimism in the receiving corps is mainly tied to Amon-Ra St. Brown.
The offensive line is often unheralded, but the Lions could boast a talented unit in 2021. Frank Ragnow is among the best centers in the league, Taylor Decker is an anchor at left tackle, and Jonah Jackson is growing into a dependable guard. The right side has some more questions. Can Halapoulivaati Vaitai set his game up after a rough first season with Detroit? Can top draft pick Penei Sewell handle the pressure, literally and figuratively, of playing at right tackle?
The defense is a story of redemption. The secondary is extremely young, looking to rebound after some rough seasons under Matt Patricia. There will be growing pains, but the talent is there to improve. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the defense is the defensive line. Michael Brockers, Levi Onwuzurike, and Alim McNeill highlight the big offseason acquisitions for Detroit. The interior looks far more explosive than last season. The defensive ends will see a new role too, having shifted to outside linebacker in Aaron Glenn’s defense.
Even the special teams have undergone some significant changes. Matt Prater departed in free agency, and the task of replacing him has thus far been a struggle. The trio of Randy Bullock, Matthew Wright, and Zane Gonzalez lost the kicking battle—Gonzalez returned to the practice squad—and the starting spot falls to a player yet to don the Honolulu blue. Austin Seibert was cut by the Bengals, but he gets another shot in Detroit. Even the ageless Don Muhlbach is gone, replaced by AAFer and XFLer Scott Daly.
With so many changes, it could be a gripping season.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which position group are you most excited to watch?
My answer: I am most excited to see the receivers.
It feels weird to pick arguably the worst position group as the one I’m most excited to watch, but the receivers are fascinating. It is a total train wreck on paper, but that’s what makes it all the more enticing to watch. Going into the season, expectations are at zero. That will result in players either surpassing our lowly goals or failing as expected.
What excites me the most is the potential for a breakout story. Essentially every receiver on the roster has the opportunity to shine. This will be Tyrell Williams’ first season as the top receiver. Amon-Ra St. Brown is the underdog mid-round rookie looking to hit the ground running. Trinity Benson is an unknown to nearly every Lions fan, and I will be curious to see how he fits. Quintez Cephus is looking to take a big step in Year 2. Kalif Raymond is expected to have his biggest role ever on offense. KhaDarel Hodge is an enigma: he could play a lot on offense or not at all. Tom Kennedy is the preseason darling that finally stuck around on the active roster.
A receiving corps of seven receivers is unlikely to stay that way for long, and with little separating them, the first few weeks of the regular season will be crucial. Tyrell Williams could break out for a 1,000-yard season or get benched by Week 5. Trinity Benson could slide into the starting role right away or get cut down the road. With this receiver group, you have to expect some surprises, for better or worse. I am excited to see what happens.