The 2021 season came to an end for the Detroit Lions just over a week ago, but the excitement for 2022 is palpable. People are feeling good about the direction of this franchise, the development of its young core, the management, and the coaches in place.
But in order for this franchise to take the next step, they need two things: the addition of talented players this offseason and their young players to take the next step in 2022.
Late in the year, the Lions were playing their best football. Jared Goff took some significant steps as the Lions finished 3-3, but 3-1 in Goff’s last four starts. Amani Oruwariye took steps towards being a more-than-capable starter. Penei Sewell showed why the Lions took his seventh overall. Tracy Walker developed into a good player and a better leader. And Amon-Ra St. Brown was one of the NFL’s most productive wide receivers in the final six weeks of the season.
Football may be a long seven months away, but it’s never too early to start getting hyped. So today’s Question of the Day is:
Which Lions player are you most excited to see play in 2022?
My answer: There are far too many answers, and that’s obviously a good thing. Who would be hyped for the season St. Brown could have? Why not get amped about Derrick Barnes, Levi Onwuzurike, or Ifeatu Melifonwu taking a Year 2 jump?
But I’m going to go another route here. I’m excited to see what Jeff Okudah will do this year.
I’m not going to put overly high expectations on Okudah. I know the mountain he must climb after suffering an Achilles tear is one many players never complete. I know his level of play before the injury was concerning, at best.
But, man, I saw flashes in training camp. I swear I did. I saw a guy playing with tremendous confidence and swag. I saw a player ready to be the best version of himself under a coaching staff that believed in him and knew how to push his buttons.
Amani Oruwariye saw it, too.
“I’m so excited for next year for him because I saw him work with a purpose and with a mentality last offseason to set himself up for the season,” Oruwariye said last week. “To see him go down like that was just heartbreaking. I feel for him and I’m just excited for his future. I can’t wait to see because it’s been two years and people still don’t know what Jeff Okudah can do. I’ve seen it.”
I’m not trying to get your hopes up. Achilles' injuries are terrible. Sure, Cam Akers’ unbelievable return in six months provides some serious optimism, but he remains the exception, not the rule. But Okudah also has the kind of work ethic necessary to beat the odds.
More than anything, I’d love for the kid to create one hell of a story for his career. It’s hard to imagine facing more adversity in his first two years in the league. If he can prove all the doubters wrong and play at a high-level next year—whether at corner or safety—he’d immediately jump to one of my favorite players on the team.
I can’t wait to see the fire in that kid’s eyes next year.