It’s hard to feel too confident in a team coming off a 3-13-1 season, but the Detroit Lions seem to be on the right track.
Many were quick to write off the 2021 Lions, and for good reason: victories on the scoreboard weren’t the main goal. 2021 was about finding and growing the pieces for a better team that can compete for playoff spots. The Lions may not be there in 2022 either, but you can see the pieces coming together.
The identity of the offense is still up in the air as Jared Goff looks to find his form and new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson looks to build upon a successful stint as passing game coordinator. However, the running backs, receivers, and offensive line give the Lions a fair share of assets to work with. The story is similar on defense, with a very young team hoping to make the jump from bottom-of-the-league.
Most of us can agree the Lions are in a better state than last year, but how about their individual position groups?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which position group are you most confident in?
My answer: To nobody’s surprise, I am most confident in the offensive line.
On paper and with everyone healthy, the Lions’ offensive line should rank among the upper echelon of the NFL—unless you’re Football Outsiders. Detroit was in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks allowed in 2021 (36 sacks, good for 14th-fewest). Similarly, the Lions’ rushing attack was middling, coming in with an average of 4.4 yards per carry. However, those numbers don’t represent how good the offensive line can be.
Firstly, missing Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow was a massive blow to the unit. Not only was rookie Penei Sewell playing out of position for the first eight weeks, but Matt Nelson was starting at right tackle. Nelson had his moments as a sixth lineman, but as a starter, his play left much to be desired. While backup center Evan Brown played well, it is tough to replicate a Pro Bowl talent like Ragnow.
It’s also worth noting that sacks are just as much a quarterback stat as they are an offensive line stat. Jared Goff had his fair share of struggles in 2021, but one problem that stood out to me was his pocket presence. Between missing defenders (in a bad way), failing to bootleg his way out of pressure, and rushing a relatively clean pocket, Goff’s pocket management led to a fair share of sacks. It could be a symptom of his first year in a new team and a new system, so there is a chance he rebounds in 2022.
With a starting quintet of Decker, Jonah Jackson, Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Sewell, the Lions' strongest position group should be their offensive line. However, their tackle depth is lackluster at best, and they better hope Decker and Sewell stay healthy. The prospect of starting Nelson, Dan Skipper, or Obinna Eze is not a good one.
I want to give an honorable mention to two other position groups: wide receivers and defensive ends. In 2021, the receiving corps was among the worst in the league. In 2022, it has changed drastically to the point where it might be one of the top position groups on the team. Adding DJ Chark and Jameson Williams to Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, and Kalif Raymond puts the receivers in a far better position than they were entering 2021. On defense, meanwhile, the addition of Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal only helps solidify the edge. Charles Harris and Romeo and Julian Okwara have their own questions to answer, but it’s not hard to see promise in this group.
Which position group do you have the most faith in as the 2022 season approaches?