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Detroit Lions 2023 season recap: 5 winners, 3 losers from offense

Which offensive players contributed heavily, and who has some training to do in the offseason?

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

There was no slowing down this offense in 2023. The Detroit Lions offense, led by offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, would finish the season fifth in points (27.1 per game), second in passing yards (258.9 per game), fifth in rushing yards (135.9), and third in total touchdowns (58). While the offense is a run-heavy scheme, it was well-balanced and effective through the air and on the ground.

The Lions saw some players step into more prominent roles, while others continued to be their dominant selves. Others took a step back or didn’t live up to expectations, but overall this unit was the best on the team. With the return of Johnson as offensive coordinator for 2024, there isn’t much to mess with, but adjustments can still be made.

There are no rookie mentions in this article, as I already went over them earlier, so if you want to read about them, check it out!

Check out my winners and losers from the Lions’ 2023 offense.

Note: Stats below reflect the regular season only, unless otherwise stated.

Winners

Jared Goff

Starting quarterback Jared Goff proved his worth in 2023; an extension is likely coming soon this offseason. Goff had arguably his best season in the NFL, something I predicted back in August, and it helped push this team further this season. Goff finished the year second in the NFL in passing yards with 4,575 yards, and fourth in the NFL in touchdowns with 30 touchdowns. He also had 12 interceptions, and 32 carries for 21 yards and two touchdowns.

While Goff had his best year in Detroit, he did have a rough few weeks with turnovers where fumbling the football and throwing interceptions were both serious problems. The amount of times he would do his famous spin into a sack move did reduce, and Goff has grown as a player.

The first two years, it was more of him learning to read defenses better and not relying on coaching as much. This year, it was learning to stand tall and deliver the ball, even if a hit was coming. Goff still missed on some deep throws, but overall, this was a good year for him and something the franchise can feel confident in for the future.

David Montgomery

Hearing the Lions signed running back David Montgomery in March 2023 was good news and bad news for Lions fans. They got a solid player in Montgomery, but it was a sign that fan-favorite Jamaal Williams would no longer be with the team. Fans soon got over Williams leaving once they saw Montgomery play and fell in love with him.

Montgomery finished the year ninth in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,015 yards and tied for fifth in touchdowns with 13. He also had 16 catches for 117 yards. Montgomery battled some injuries in the year and missed three games, but he showed that he was worth every penny in those 14 games. He wasn’t just a power-back for the team; he sometimes showed his speed to make defenders miss. He and running back Jahmyr Gibbs will be a fun duo to watch these next few years.

Amon-Ra St. Brown

Last offseason, Goff told Ben Johnson that wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown would have a huge year, and boy, he did. St. Brown had a career year, finishing third in the NFL with 1,515 yards, tied for second in catches with 119, and tied for fourth in touchdowns with 10. St. Brown finished the year as a First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl wide receiver.

St. Brown continues to rise in the rankings of NFL wide receivers and be a more significant threat than people expect him to be. He isn’t the biggest wide receiver out there, but he’s one of the toughest. St. Brown is hard to bring down and tackle with his strength, and his speed and quickness are difficult to cover. St. Brown is entering the final year of his contract, so you should start to see some possible extension conversations happen this offseason because this coaching staff and front office doesn’t want him to go anywhere.

Jameson Williams

What a season for wide receiver Jameson Williams. After missing the first four games due to the NFL gambling policy, Williams returned and had a rough start with drops and miscommunication as he acclimated to the roster. The more he played and got involved with the offense, the more he became a focal point. He was used as a deep shot weapon early on, but eventually, was used in the short passing game, end-arounds, and more.

Williams finished the season with 24 catches for 354 yards and two touchdowns. He also had three carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. Williams started pulling down impressive catches, showing he isn’t just a speedy, deep-threat option. He was also a key weapon in the postseason—pulling in six catches for 79 yards and a score combined with a 42-yard touchdown run in the NFC Championship game.

Williams will significantly benefit from an offseason to prepare to play in September instead of October and not miss any time with his teammates.

Offensive line (mostly)

The above players only succeed if the offensive line is a dominant factor, and man, oh man, was this unit ever a problem. Injuries were still the issue with this group, as multiple players missed time, but when the unit played together, they were one of the top offensive lines, if not the best offensive line in football. Where do you even start?

Easy, right tackle Penei Sewell continues to be one the best players on this team and in the NFL. He finished the year as not just the top-rated offensive tackle according to PFF but also the top-rated offensive lineman. He finished with a grade of 92.8 and only allowed a single sack—including the playoffs. Sewell was also a First-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler. He wasn’t the only offensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl, as center Frank Ragnow was nominated after another fantastic season. According to PFF, Ragnow finished as the top-rated center with an 88.8 grade, allowing one sack and 18 pressures.

While they didn’t get any awards, the other offensive linemen were just as impressive. According to PFF, left tackle Taylor Decker was the ninth-ranked offensive tackle with an 81.1 grade, allowing eight sacks and 38 pressures. Right guard Graham Glasgow had arguably his best year in the NFL, finishing ninth in PFF grade among all guards in the NFL (74.9), allowing two sacks and 39 pressures.

Losers

Donovan Peoples-Jones

Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones was acquired from the Cleveland Browns via trade back at the trade deadline in October. Coming off a career season in 2022 with 839 receiving yards and three touchdowns, Peoples-Jones was on a downward trend in 2023 as he had only eight catches for 97 yards in seven games for the Browns. Upon arriving in Detroit, fans saw it as an excellent depth-piece move for the Lions, but overall, it was not worth it.

Peoples-Jones did have a few nice catches for the Lions when they needed a big play, but he only had five for 58 yards to end the season. He would take over as punt returner when wide receiver Kalif Raymond got injured in Week 18, but he never did anything spectacular with it. Peoples-Jones is up for a new contract, and while it could be a cheap contract, I don’t know if he will be back in Detroit next year.

Jonah Jackson

It’s not the best time to play your worst football in a contract year. Heading into the 2023 season, Jackson was considered one of the best offensive linemen and was likely headed for a big payday. Now the question is: will he even be on the team in 2024? Jackson played in 12 games, missing five regular season games and a playoff game due to injuries. Jackson got a PFF score 61, ranked 34th in the NFL at guard, allowing two sacks and 24 pressures.

Jackson was still a helpful guard for the team, but the injuries and dip in performance compared to years past were not what you wanted to see out of him in a contract year. The good news is Jackson’s season could cause his price tag to drop and be more affordable for the team. The team will have to weigh whether they believe Jackson can return healthy and back to his old level or if they worry he isn’t the guy he used to be.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Jackson wasn’t the only disappointment on the offensive line, as Halapoulivaati Vaitai had another rough season. He missed all of 2022 due to a back injury and returned to play in 2023. He beat out Glasgow at right guard to start the season, but injuries rattled Vaitai again, making him only appear in six games, starting three, and reappearing on IR for the remainder of the season.

Vaitai has been a rough signing for the franchise, and with the final year of his contract approaching in 2024, don’t be surprised if the Lions decide to move on from him. Of course, given Vaitai had already thought about retirement last year, another back injury could take the decision out of Detroit’s hands.

The Lions will likely look elsewhere for a depth piece on the offensive line that is younger, and isn’t bogged down with injuries. Vaitai was given a second chance from the back injury, but his time in Detroit is almost certainly coming to a close.

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