Our long wait is over. The 2022 offseason is officially behind us with the start of Detroit Lions' training camp.
Even with a subdued free agency, it’s been an exciting offseason for the Lions. First, we waited to see if some of the coaching staff would get poached by other teams. Shortly thereafter, the Lions were announced as the featured team on Hard Knocks this year, and that Detroit will host the NFL Draft in 2024. Next, the Lions had one of the more exciting drafts, with two picks in the top 12. Since the draft, we’ve had little to run on. A few weeks of offseason workouts, then nothing.
But Wednesday we will finally get some real content. Pride of Detroit will be covering every training camp practice, as we offer our observations and quotes from various coaches and players.
In short, we will get some answers to the questions that have been piling up for the last seven months.
Here are the 11 biggest questions facing the Lions entering training camp.
How will Jared Goff look in a make-or-break season?
We have to start with the most important position. Debates were had all offseason whether the Goff that finished last year as a quarterback knocking on top-10 status in his final four starts was real or just a flash in the pan. Goff has an improved receiving corps, a finally-healthy offensive line, a running game that had life last year, and an offensive coordinator that is clearly a better fit than Anthony Lynn was.
In 2023, the Lions have an out in Goff’s contract and two first-round picks. If Goff struggles, they’ll have options. But Detroit has shown a tremendous amount of faith in him, and so if Goff can impress this year, they may just stick with him.
We won’t know for sure which Goff the Lions have in training camp, but it was also very apparent early in last year’s camp that the offense wasn’t working.
Can Jeff Okudah stay healthy and look like a starting cornerback?
Everyone has claimed their stake in predicting Okudah’s future. Either he’s a bust that will go down as one of the Lions’ worst picks or he’s about to prove everyone wrong after rehabbing from his torn Achilles last September.
Thankfully, when Okudah takes the field on Wednesday, everyone can just shut up and watch it unfold on the field.
Wherever you stand on Okudah’s future, it’s impossible to deny that he’s a fascinating story, and could be a pivotal player on this team’s defense.
Will the wide receiver room live up to expectations?
Last year, the Lions’ wide receiving corps failed to impress in training camp, and that clearly rolled over to the regular season. Since last season, the Lions have added Josh Reynolds, DJ Chark, and Jameson Williams. While it seems unlikely we’ll see much of Williams, the other two additions—combined with the quick maturation of Amon-Ra St. Brown have risen expectations for this group exponentially.
But many of these players still have questions to answer. Can Chark stay healthy and return to a Pro Bowl level talent? How will St. Brown’s role change with an improved cast around him? Can Reynolds be a consistent starter while Williams is sidelined?
Is the Lions' offensive line elite?
Even nationally, people have taken notice of all the potential on the Lions’ offensive line. PFF ranked it third. Ross Tucker also had them third. Jonah Jackson thinks they could be the best in the league.
But the truth is we have never seen this combination of five players play a single snap together. Can they possibly live up to the hype?
How many players will make the Year 2 jump?
Penei Sewell had a fantastic rookie season. St. Brown did, too. But for the rest of the rookie class, the Lions are hoping the best is yet to come. Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike are primed for huge roles in 2022, but can they rise to the occasion? Will Derrick Barnes win one of the starting linebacker spots? Where will Ifeatu Melifonwu even be playing this year?
Detroit figures to be relying heavily on their 2021 draft class, but questions still remain about a lot of those guys.
Will the scheme/philosophical changes on both sides of the ball work?
The Lions' coaching staff remains relatively the same from last year, but they have promised to change their philosophy on both sides of the ball. On one hand, that shows a tremendous amount of flexibility that previous coaching staffs were not up to. On the other hand, that could mean some growing pains for both the offense and defense.
The offense is headed by Ben Johnson this year, who got a head start when he and Dan Campbell essentially replaced Lynn midseason. They want to push the ball downfield, but they also want to incorporate a lot of the play-action concepts that Goff was comfortable with in Los Angeles. It all sounds good in theory, but this is Johnson’s first time coordinating.
Defensively, Aaron Glenn has promised this defense will be more attacking at the line of scrimmage and use more four-down fronts. On paper, that should heavily benefit the aforementioned McNeill and Onwuzurike, but again, it’s all in theory now.
Will D’Andre Swift meet the coaches’ challenges?
Back in the spring, assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley had some strong words for D’Andre Swift.
“Hey man, you’ve got to fight through some things,” Staley said, referring to Swift’s injury-filled seasons over the past two years.
“We all know there’s a difference in being injured and hurt,” Staley explained. “As soon as you step in this building as a running back—Day 1 of training camp—you’re not going to feel the same. So there are going to be some things he’s going to have to fight through, and he’s going to have to work through that.”
Expectations are high for Swift given that the rest of the offense is starting to fill out. He’s shown flashes of being a true offensive weapon, but he’ll have to maintain that level of play for an entire season to earn this regime’s trust.
Who will emerge from the linebacking corps?
Dan Campbell has referred to the upcoming training camp battle at linebacker as a “bloodbath.” Linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard has professed his love for the group. But mostly everyone can see that this is the weakest spot on the roster. This unit struggled last year, and Detroit didn’t do much to improve it this offseason—signing Chris Board and Jarrad Davis to one-year deals and using a sixth-round pick on Malcolm Rodriguez.
Will Detroit’s plan of putting seven or eight highly competitive players in a room truly work in getting the absolute best out of everyone? Or will the Lions’ lack of baseline talent be obvious again?
How will the secondary shake out?
Amani Oruwariye will be a starting cornerback. Tracy Walker will start at safety. DeShon Elliott will probably hold down the other starting safety spot.
Just about everything else is up for grabs right now. Can Okudah maintain his health and win back a starting job? Who will win out at nickel between AJ Parker, Mike Hughes, and Chase Lucas? And where do position flexible players like Ifeatu Melfionwu and Will Harris fit in?
Detroit really struggled to defend the pass last year, so these will be some of the more important position battles for the Lions in camp.
Who will be TE2/3?
The Lions have long struggled to find two capable tight ends on the roster. With James Mitchell potentially healthy to start training camp, that could be a start. But he’s a rookie and he’s played exactly two games in the past two calendar years. The depth behind him is full of young players who have not proved much. Perhaps Devin Funchess could surprise in his move back to tight end.
Will Dan Campbell and the Lions win over the national audience in “Hard Knocks”?
Dan Campbell has already won over a ridiculously high number of Lions fans. Will the national audience who will finally see Campbell beyond kneecap comments be swooned by Campbell and the rest of Detroit’s energetic coaching staff? Or will there be a few not-so-flattering moments that make it to air?