As I look forward to the 2022 season, I am excited about the first string team the Lions have entering the year, even if some are rookies or sophomores. The next man up in the NFL has however proven to be a mantra that carries a lot of importance in a league where so many injuries are so frequent. The depth of the Lions is probably their weakness.
I'd like to review what I believe are the biggest concerns by position:
QB If Goff is injured we do not have a guy that can step in and likely pull off a victory. Boyle and Blough just don't give me a lot of confidence. I would have preferred to see a seasoned back-up signed or a prospect drafted with a higher ceiling than what I believe either of the former two have.
RB This might be a relatively deep area for the Lions with Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, and perhaps more able to provide good performances.
TE If Hockenson is injured we don't have a very solid back-up. Some teams seem to have two starters on their roster, but we seem to have to hope that a drafted middle round player will emerge healthy and capable.
WR There is reason for hope here unlike last year. We have St Brown and Reynolds, as well as several other receivers that have promise. This position has definitely been fortified.
OT Matt Nelson seems to be a capable 6th offensive lineman, and he has some starting experience, but I'm not really sold he can be looked to, to be a regular. The team probably still needs to add help here.
OG Tommy Kraemer filled in admirably as a rookie, but again he lacks the pedigree to make me feel this is a top notch player to step in as a regular.
OC Evan Brown did the job and proved to be a solid starter. Perhaps he can provide similar assistance as a guard, but it remains to be seen.
DE It would seem we have a number of options here, but returning from injuries is another factor that plays into just how much depth the Lions have. It is also a key to their success to put far more pressure on opponent QBs this year from this position. Overall, I'm hopeful, but we are depending on a solid recovery from Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris sustaining productivity. Aidan Hutchinson is a rookie and will likely feel a lot of pressure to produce, but if he goes down, I hope Okwara can be ready.
DT Levi Onwuzurike probably has to prove he can be the #2 man in the middle, or Michael Brockers has to get and stay healthy, or we're in trouble. Josh Paschal may be a good player, but he is already hurt and has to get healthy. The middle really will suffer if Alim McNeill goes down now that John Penisini is retired. I worry the most about this position if one or two injuries strike.
LB I think this position has enough players to field comparable quality throughout the year, but the overall performance depends so much on the DT position remaining strong.
CB I think we should have enough talent, but again, their performance will be driven by the strength of the defensive line.
S Again we have improved depth here, but it will all be for naught if the DL fails.
In summary, the Lions' men in the trenches hold the key, but depth at the tackle spots is lacking, if not glaringly thin. Signing OT Crosby, if healthy, would have made me feel better. Drafting another DT also would have been nice. Getting a better back-up QB might still have been the most important move to keep the team from collapsing.
What do you think? Which position(s) do you think are lacking the depth necessary to sustain being better? Have the Lions done enough this year to have the right man next up in place?
The draft after 2022 might be the one to really help this team sustain itself. RB might emerge as a need however if D'Andre goes down since Williams' contract expires after 2022. TE too might be a high need depending on how the rookie back-up pans out. DT probably remains high on the list of need; Brockers likely retires after 2022. OG and OT could each use reinforcements, but perhaps signing experienced help is a better way to go. Last, but not least, what do you do at QB? A high ceiling developmental QB probably makes sense, but can you afford not to have someone ready to step in and give the team a fighting chance? Do Blough or Boyle really have that potential? Do you draft the QB of the future and relegate Goff to being your back-up - that's unlikely given his salary, but perhaps he remains to help mentor and develop the "future" guy.