Earlier this week we made some kool-aid, listing the top five reasons to be optimistic about the 2022 Detroit Lions. Then we let that kool-aid sit in the fridge too long and now it’s gone bad. Welcome to hell!
Now it’s time to get real and live in the real world. I’m talking the Miz before he was the Miz on The Real World. In all seriousness, there are reasons to be pessimistic about the 2022 Detroit Lions. That doesn’t mean it has to be “the sky is falling” pessimism like in years past. This is more of a “not yet” pessimism. Let’s jump into it.
Health is already a problem
In the first article, we led with the Lions offense being a reason for optimism. The problem there is that part of that offense might not be ready to go come Week 1. Jameson Williams obviously tops that list. The reality on the Lions’ 12th overall pick is that he may not be ready to play until the Lions are well into the season. Then you have to wonder how long it will take for Williams to acclimate since he missed all of camp and hasn’t yet built a rapport with Jared Goff.
James Mitchell is another player coming off an ACL injury who may not be ready to fully go in camp. Jeff Okudah looks good in the videos and signs point towards him being ready, but will he? What about Josh Paschal, who’s dealing with an core injury or Jerry Jacobs, who hasn’t yet made it on the field after suffering a torn ACL in December? And how far along is Romeo Okwara in his Achilles recovery?
That’s a lot of player who have already missed offseason time and will have to play catch up in a hurry in training camp, if they can make it on the field at all.
Don’t get mad at me. I even touched on it a tiny bit in the optimism piece. Johnson is a brand spanking new offensive coordinator and the belief right now is that he’s bringing a new offense with him. I think Johnson can succeed, but are the Lions going to suffer a bunch of bumps in the road? It’s perfectly logical to think that Johnson will go through some growing pains. It’s natural. You don’t know what you don’t know until you’re actually thrown into the fire. Johnson talked about that himself this offseason while talking about the potential of calling plays.
“There’s nothing like the real bullets, I think we all know that, but we’ll see what direction coach wants to go,” Johnson said. “I know this: I know mentally I’m going to be as ready as I possibly can be without actually having done it.”
There’s a lot to like about Dan Campbell, but he didn’t exactly nail his first offensive coordinator hire. Could this be the thing that Campbell can’t get right? I’m not sure I’d go that far just yet. Still, there’s reason to be a little concerned until shown otherwise.
Jared Goff’s confidence
Let’s throw one “what if?” in here. Jared Goff did have a nice finish to his first season with the Lions, but other than that, Goff spent a lot of his time Detroit looking like one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. What if Goff looks like that again? What if that confidence he’s bolstering only lasts a couple weeks into the season?
Of course, there’s an upside to Jared Goff struggling in 2022. The Lions have an out in his contract after the season, and they’ll probably have a shot at a high draft pick to use on a what appears to be a decent quarterback class. The flip side there is that Goff being bad sets the Lions’ timeline back and turns them into a team that has to get that high draft pick right to make sure they’re not constantly searching for a quarterback.
The Lions defense hasn’t improved enough
While I do love what the team did with its defensive line, that’s just not enough. That whole “not yet” thing is really coming into play here. The Lions have a long way to go on defense. Their linebacking corps is by far the team’s weakest unit, and their secondary is still so young and just not ready yet.
Even if the Lions offense works out—which I think it will—there’s cause to believe the Lions defense could put the team in a situation where they’re going to have to win some shootouts. Is the offense—in its first year under a first-time offensive coordinator—capable of consistently winning those type of games?
It’s not the end of the world. The Lions can fix these problems over time and that’s fine. Time is a big part of building the right way. Still, the Lions could wind up losing some games because of this young group.
Do the Lions know how to win?
It’s an unanswerable question at this juncture, but the fact is that the Lions really showed in 2021 that they didn’t know how to win. They knew how to almost win and then let the game go. Last year, the Lions were 2-6-1 in one-score games, and a lot of those losses came due to critical coaching and player errors late in the game.
Until the Lions can show that they can consistently perform in clutch situations, it’s hard to get fully optimistic about this team having a big time season. In today’s NFL, most games are decided by a few key plays late in the game. It’s essential to deliver in those moments.
On top of that, guys like Aaron Rodgers still exist and the Lions are a pretty inexperienced team. There will come a time when they’re ready to win, but right now it feels like there’s a good chance that time won’t be now.