By most measures, the Detroit Lions’ 2022 season was a success. While some will bemoan the fact that this team missed out on the playoffs despite going 8-2 over the last 10 games, the more level-headed among us will acknowledge that they played above most people’s expectations. Remember that when we polled Lions fans back in September, only 22 percent of you voted that Detroit would finish 10-7 or better, and that was with the perception that the team’s schedule was “easy.” Turns out, the Lions faced the fifth-toughest schedule in the NFL by winning percentage.
But success can be measured by several different factors. Some will look at the record. Some will look at growth of specific players. Others will note the establishment of a culture or even the coaching staff figuring things out.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
What was the biggest accomplishment of the 2022 season?
My answer: The establishment of a young foundation.
Last year, general manager Brad Holmes managed to find a couple of players who will undoubtedly be core members of this team. Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown just missed out on the Pro Bowl this year, but it won’t be long before they reach those honors and perhaps find themselves among All Pro teams. The rest of Holmes’ class features some solid contributors in Alim McNeill and Derrick Barnes, but that’s about it. It’s fair to wonder now if he whiffed on a couple of Day 2 picks in Levi Onwuzurike and Ifeatu Melifonwu.
However, Holmes’ 2022 draft class could be one for the ages. Aidan Hutchinson should be the runner up in Defensive Rookie of the Year. Kerby Joseph has established himself as a starter and a playmaker. Malcolm Rodriguez hit the ground running and should only get better as the experience sets in. James Houston had a ridiculous finish to the season and could be a legitimate game changer with his pass rush skills. Oh, and we only scratched the surface of what first-round wide receiver Jameson Williams is capable of.
Look across the roster now. It’s filled with young players who will be part of this team for years to come, and for the next few years, they will cost the Lions very little. D’Andre Swift (23), Amon-Ra St. Brown (23), Jameson Williams (21), James Mitchell (23), Penei Sewell (22), Frank Ragnow (26), Jonah Jackson (25), Aidan Hutchinson (22), James Houston (24), Alim McNeill (22), Josh Paschal (23), Malcolm Rodriguez (23), Derrick Barnes (23), Jerry Jacobs (25), and Kerby Joseph (22). Of those players listed, 14 of 15 are on rookie or minimum contracts and all 15 are expected to be starters or significant contributors in 2023 and likely beyond. Even some of their “veteran” players are still young and in the prime of their careers: Jared Goff (28), Taylor Decker (29), Tracy Walker (27).
Detroit finished the season strong, but there’s no reason to believe they shouldn’t be better next year. Most of these players will see their game improve next year, not to mention that the Lions have ample resources this offseason to get even better—with two first and two second-round picks and more cap space than they’ve had under Holmes.
The present is bright, and the future should be brighter.