There may be two games left in the Detroit Lions’ 2021 season, but it’s officially 2022 and it’s time to start looking ahead to Year 2 of the Dan Campbell era. Despite their current 2-12-1 record, the Lions have accomplished quite a bit in the first year of the new regime. There has been a clear change in culture that has led to a huge wave of positive vibes both within the organization and outside of it. They found some emotional leaders in the locker room and young depth that could be part of the team’s future.
That being said, there’s a ton left to accomplish. For all the feel-goodery this year has provided, the roster still leaves a lot to be desired. Detroit is far from sporting a Super Bowl level roster.
In the spirit of the new year, I lay out five New Year's Resolutions for the 2022 Detroit Lions:
1. Retain Aaron Glenn
This should honestly be the Lions’ top priority this offseason, but this is not entirely in their control. Glenn already interviewed for head coaching jobs in previous years, so it’s not like he’s some secret. There’s a pretty good chance he gets another interview or two this year, but Dan Campbell needs to do everything he can to sweeten the pot and get Glenn to stay.
If you were to look at the statistics of 2021, nothing about Glenn’s performance would seem very special. All you need to do is look at the development of individual players to see the impact Glenn has had on the defensive side of the ball. Amani Oruwariye has taken a clear step. The Lions defensive coordinator made capable players out of a couple undrafted rookies in Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker. Charles Harris, Alex Anzalone and Jalen Reeves-Maybin all had career years.
It wasn’t a perfect year from the first-time defensive coordinator, but the promise was obvious. Glenn flexed his game-planning muscle against teams like the Ravens and Cardinals that completely blindsided both teams, giving the Lions legitimate shots at big upsets. The players love him and clearly fight for him. Please don’t go.
2. Get healthy (and stay healthy)
A common goal for everyone in the new year, this is especially important for the Detroit Lions. Detroit lost several key players for the year that can—and should—be a part of this team’s future. We talked about the impact Aaron Glenn had on the defense. Imagine what he could do with a full year from guys like Jeff Okudah, Ifeatu Melifonwu and Romeo Okwara.
Offensively, we never got the opportunity to see the entire starting offensive line on the field together. Taylor Decker missed the first half of the season and Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow missed the final 13 games. Detroit lost offensive weapons T.J. Hockenson (five games), D’Andre Swift (four games), Quintez Cephus (12 games) and Tyrell Williams (16 games).
Obviously, it’s unrealistic to expect the Lions to keep all of their starters healthy for an entire season, but it’d be nice to keep their key players on the field for the majority of the year, and see what this team is capable at full strength.
3. Do your research on quarterbacks
Notice this section does not say “find a new quarterback.” Detroit doesn’t need to act desperate this offseason. There is no hurry here, because Jared Goff is starting to prove he can at least keep this team competitive with the right parts around him. Is he the quarterback of the future? I have my doubts, but I don’t mind giving him another year to figure it out.
That being said, the Lions are in a fantastic drafting position this year and have a shot at the best quarterback in this class. While the outside perception is that there isn’t a sure-fire franchise quarterback in this draft class, the Lions need to be absolutely sure of that themselves before kicking the can down the road.
It’s easy to say the Lions should punt on selecting a quarterback this year, but there is no guarantee they’ll be in as good a position to take one in 2023. In fact, with the way the Lions are playing at the end of this season, I think most would be disappointed if the Lions were picking in the top ten next year.
So general manager Brad Holmes better do as thorough as a job as possible on this year’s quarterback class, because they may not get an opportunity like this again.
4. Get at least one more offensive weapon
Even with the late-season explosion from Amon-Ra St. Brown and the clear impact Josh Reynolds has made on the offense, the Lions are still in need of a game-changing receiver. Reynolds would make a great No. 2 (if the Lions re-sign him) and Cephus proved in 2021 he can be decent depth, but neither is the type of player i’m talking about.
Get a true No. 1 outside receiver in here with the rest of the receiving corps plus Hockenson and Swift and suddenly Goff almost has an embarrassment of riches to work with. Combined with an offensive line that is quite formidable, we could see a decent-sized jump in offensive production in 2022 by adding a top receiver.
5. Figure out the offensive coaching chain of command
The last piece of the offensive puzzle is figuring out who is going to run this dang thing. Campbell has essentially blocked out offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn so much that Campbell is actually referring to himself as “OC” now. Lynn has accepted his demotion to essentially “run game coordinator,” but he’s also said publicly that he’s not really happy with it, either. It’s probably a safe assumption he’s gone in 2022 via mutual parting.
So is Campbell going to hold onto play calling in 2022? Will he feel the need to have that much influence on the offense? Or will tight ends coach and rising star Ben Johnson take the reins? Or will Campbell reach into his address book and find another gem of a coach to add to the staff?
I’m starting to think Campbell may want to retain play calling duties, as he continues to find his footing there and show improvement. He needs to have some serious conversations within the organization to find out if that’s truly best for the team, though.