Been awhile, hasn't it? We're a little bit beyond halfway into the 2022 NFL football season, and to say this season hasn't gone the way many of us expected is a major understatement. There's a lot of positive things to say about this year, and this is the post to cover the brunt of it.
I'm JWNagy, and these are my Top 10 Takeaways of the season, featuring the 2022 Detroit Lions. Obviously, these are just my opinions. We'll start from number ten and work our way to the top. Let's begin, shall we?
10. Aaron Glenn in the month of November has been nothing short of spectacular.
There were whispers that Glenn was on his way out after a dismal eight weeks to open the year, and by November's start, it looked as though he was already one foot out the door. We all laughed when Pleasant seemingly became the scapegoat of a blunder that was Glenn's doing. Then, we watched as for three consecutive weeks, the Lions defense came alive with either sturdy performances in limiting points or capturing key turnovers to capture the momentum. It shouldn't come as too much of a shocker that the Lions would halt their five-game losing streak when they only surrendered nine points, but to win three straight games, including two on the road, that's seriously impressive.
Shutting down Saquon Barkley in MetLife when everyone seemed to have written the Lions run defense off was nothing short of baffling to the entire league, including us Lions fans. Glenn came in with a plan and executed it. Give him credit; because you know he deserves it.
9. Let's stay realistic; don't expect playoffs, expect progress.
I know there's a lot of fans who see a path to playoffs but come on. Let's stay on planet Earth here, okay? To make the playoffs, it's more than likely that Detroit will have to win out. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but in their seven final games, if they somehow manage to go 5-2, that will be only good for 9-8 in a crowded NFC. Don't forget; they still have games against Buffalo (obviously), Minnesota, the Jets and the Packers in Lambeau. Forget beating Buffalo, let's say they do manage to beat Buffalo by ways of Sorcery. They'd still have to be close to winning out to have a shot.
Stay realistic; recognize that it's not likely we go anywhere this year. That being said, enjoy the progress and hope it doesn't stall out along the way.
8. Injuries are mounting; what's the cure?
This is one that I'm sure there's some easy responses to. Yes, I'm aware football is a physical sport and therefore injuries happen often. However, it seems like smaller injuries that sideline players day-to-day are occurring more often than ever this year (for reference, check the Lions injury reports day-to-day. It's seriously worrisome.) The Lions have had a lot of friendly-fire plays, but they can't be the cause of all injuries. It's a question that raises a lot of solid points; it'll be interesting to see if the Turf removal argument gets raised further.
7. St. Brown and Sewell are, by far, the best players selected from last year's draft class.
Sewell is currently the 7th best tackle in all of football according to PFF. St. Brown is the current heart and soul of the Lions organization. Not many people (especially this Lions fan) would've assumed that St. Brown would turn into such a frighteningly dangerous player to face off against when we selected him last year in the 4th round, but here we are.
This duo is amongst the best in the business and the rest of the league is on high alert. Give credit to Holmes for making these selections, but we'll be coming back to the Lions GM in not too long.
6. D'Andre Swift may be out as the lead back in Detroit.
This may deserve to be higher up on the list of biggest takeaways given the Lions identity of physicality and love of running the ball, but I'm placing this topic here instead. Swift's biggest problem is rearing its ugly head; he can't stay healthy. For two games, we watched as Swift was a pure gamechanger with his electric movement and elusiveness. However, a wise man once said that the best ability a football player can possess is availability. So, it shouldn't be too much of a shocker that Jamaal—wait what?
Okay, who would've thought the Jamaal Williams would be leading all running backs in rushing touchdowns on the year? Not me, that's for certain. Williams' emergence as a solid back has fans and potentially coaches thinking about Swift's usage. He doesn't look like the same back that was shredding Philly and Washington in weeks one and two.
5. Rams... wherever you are, whatever you're doing... don't stop.
If you would've told me that halfway into the season, the Lions would possess the 6th and 13th selections in the draft courtesy of the LA Rams, I would say something along the lines of, "Whoa... the Rams aren't even in the playoffs? The Lions aren't in the top five? That's crazy!"
Then, you'd realize that Detroit's own selection was somehow after the Rams' pick. Yeah, that would've been tough to believe. But it's a reality, and one that could benefit Detroit in so many ways. As Detroit's win streak has reached three, the Rams' losing streak has continued against teams like he now 4-7 Cardinals and 4-7 Saints. Their offensive line has been putrid. Stafford has suffered multiple injuries. Superstar Cooper Kupp is on IR until further notice. There's a stunningly realistic chance the Rams lose every game they have left. Is that going to happen? Of course not. A team led by Sean McVay and featuring a defense led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey will not be shut out the remainder of the year.
So, the Lions should savor every Rams loss, because it pushes them towards a top five pick with every passing week.
4. Building a winning culture starts with the coach.
After the games and in the victory videos the team posts on their YouTube channel, one of the most empowering phrases continually changes. It started with, "That's one!"
The next week?
The week after?
These words are obviously not the only reason why the team seems to be in a mid-season rally. Whether or not the words mean a lot or close to nothing, it can be argued that the man speaking those words is more important than the words themselves. Dan Campbell went from a coach lurking towards the hot seat at the end of October to a man looking to stun the world and vault the Lions into the playoff conversation. Campbell may not make the smartest decisions ever. Campbell may not be the most tactical coach to ever walk the land, but he commands the respect of the players and is the heart of the culture that Detroit is aiming to wield.
Instead of being out by Thanksgiving, there's an outside chance the Lions sneak into the playoffs. Either way, the Lions already have more wins than they did all of last season, which means one thing: they're making progress under Campbell. He deserves a good amount of credit, but when he commands a squad flush with talent... that will be his true test to see if he can take a team to the top.
3. Consistency issues still threaten this team on both sides of the ball.
The Lions may have won three straight, but there are a lot of questions regarding consistencies in those games. For one, putting up a measly fifteen points against Green Bay at home isn't sustainable. Giving up thirty to Chicago the week after isn't anything to crow about either. The game against the Giants was a nice anomaly where both the offense and the defense were clicking for the vast majority of the game; they need more of those games if they're going to defy the odds and complete their rise out of the dungeons.
With that, we come to the top two takeaways of the season thus far.
2. Brad Holmes drafted a seriously solid class in 2022.
In 2021, St. Brown and Sewell highlighted a solid class that also featured DT Alim McNeill, who just enjoyed his best game as a Pro against the G-Men. This past April, the Lions controlled the 2nd and 32nd picks in the first round. The Lions took local Michigan Superstar Aidan Hutchinson with the 2nd overall pick, and since then, he's been a force against the run, against the pass and even dropping into coverage.
The 32nd pick was used in a trade to jump twenty spots to select Alabama speedster Jameson Williams. Jameson was a core part of the Alabama squad that made it to the national championship, and he would've gone far earlier had it not been for a torn ACL he suffered in the CFP. He's expected to return within the next three weeks at most. While these two players highlight the team's core, perhaps no rookie is more underrated than third round safety Kerby Joseph, who leads the team in interceptions this season with three. While he lacks in run stoppage, he thrives in coverage and is getting noticed nationally for his ability to generate turnovers (3 INTs, 2 FF's.) Last but not least, a potential late round steal in Malcom Rodriguez, a man who's had to semi-anchor a depleted linebacker core as a 23-year-old rookie from Oklahoma State.
Obviously, these aren't all of the players Holmes drafted, but all of these players are making significant contributions right now, and Holmes is the one who brought them here. Time to give him some credit if he hasn't gotten any (or enough.)
HM. Holmes' best decision may have been not resigning Kenny Golladay.
4 Years, $72 Million dollars. It's one of the worst contracts in all of Football, and it's not even remotely close. If the Lions would have signed Golladay, it would be potentially setting them back a year or possibly two in the rebuild given how cap-strapped they already could be. $18 Million a year more for a guy who drops more passes than he catches is nothing short of abysmal.
HM. The Lions have a bright future.
On both sides of the ball, high-end talent can be found. On offense, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson's Williams' upside lead the way, while Penei Sewell and the rest of the offensive line shine brightly. Keep in mind that Sewell and the offensive line has still not played a snap together at full strength. On defense, the new-look Jeff Okudah, run-stuffing Alim McNeill, rising rookie Aidan Hutchinson and the potential safety tandem of KJ and TW. There's a foundation there, something that has the potential to morph into contenders. Next season, the lions could make a handful of cuts that would potentially put them into the top echelon of cap space as well, and the icing on the cake is that they have two first round selections for this upcoming draft as well. Detroit is on the right track.
1. Jared Goff is not the answer.
Like Swift, it seemed like in the early parts of the season that Goff was the man of the future. He was carving up defense's week-in and week-out. Then came week five, and nothing seemed to be the same for #16 since. It's disappointing to say the least, but it's clear to just about everyone Goff isn't a quarterback that can lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. The closest he will likely ever come is behind him, which is sad but not unsurprising. The future is likely in this draft for Detroit, who will have an elite offensive line, a plethora of weapons to choose from and a bright future waiting for that signal caller.
What takeaway did I not address that I should have? Let me know!