Welcome back to another edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race In The Perspective Of Chase’, a close to daily NFL article previewing your favorite teams season! The Detroit Lions are one of the more intriguing teams to pay attention to in 2023! Because this is a team that hasn’t found a ton of success come there way as of late, but a late-season push last season put them just near the postseason in 2022. However, with a defense that is still unproven and a running game that has many question marks, was last season’s run just a fluke? Or will Lions build off their 2022 campaign, and capture their first postseason birth since 2016? Here is everything you need to know about the Detroit Lions going into the 2023 season!
It has to be answered: Are the Lions legitimate Super Bowl contenders?
It has been a rocky road for the Detroit Lions! No playoff wins or conference championship appearances since 1991, no division titles since 1993, and 12 last place finishes in their division since that time. But there is finally a time to get excited for Detroit Lion football, because this team has a ton of potential to be REALLY good in 2023. And that is all because of the second half of the 2022 season, where the Lions went 8-2 and eliminated their rival Green Bay Packers from the postseason, a game that was Aaron Rodgers last in Green Bay! But almost reaching the postseason was very impressive for a team that started just 1-6.
And the reason for the run was mainly the offense, which starts with Jared Goff. It’s safe to say Goff has had an up-and-down career. There is no questioning that. But he actually played really good football for Detroit in 2022. Over 4400 passing yards, over a 65% completion rate, 29 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and close to a 100.0 passer rating. And his stats in Detroit’s final ten games included a 66% completion rate, over 2500 yards and 17 touchdowns to just ONE interception. Now, is Goff going to be a quarterback that could take Detroit to a Super Bowl? That’s a whole other question. But it’s safe to say, whether he can or not, that he’s a very solid quarterback in this league!
One of the more surprising parts of Detroit’s offense last season was Jamaal Williams, who after many years of serviceable football, broke out into a 1,000 yard rusher who also knocked on an NFL leading 17 touchdowns. A 3rd down and red zone machine, Williams proved his worth in 2022. Behind him was D’Andre Swift, who definitely disappointed expectations. Under 40 yards per game in 14 contests and just 5 touchdowns; not pretty football. It was all made up for in the receiving game however by essentially just Amon-Ra St. Brown. Amon-Ra totaled close to 1200 yards receiving and six receiving touchdowns in 2022, but actually did most of his damage after week seven–the week he finally became Detroit’s number one option after T.J. Hockenson was dealt to Minnesota–recording over 81 yards per game and close to 12 yards per reception.
Defense on the other hand was Detroit’s largest weakness. Detroit ranked 32nd in yards allowed per game, 27th in points per game and 17th in takeaways. And that is why Detroit, a team that was fourth in yards per game and fifth in points per game, fell short of the postseason. That doesn’t takeaway from some really good defensive players Detroit had however. Rookie second overall pick Aidan Hutchinson was obviously the main guy, as he totaled 9.5 sacks, three interceptions as a DEFENSIVE LINEMAN, two fumble recoveries and 15 QB hits. James Houston also contributed with 8 sacks. Alex Anzalone led the team in tackles with 125, and Kerby Joseph led the team in interceptions with 4. Overall, some decent talent that could be good for the future, but with nothing to show for it in 2022!
So while Detroit was 9-8 with a pretty decent core, they had some work to do in the offseason. And Detroit was actually one of the busier teams this spring making moves. It started with the biggest decision the Lions made, letting go of both Swift and Williams and replacing them with David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs. Detroit had the sixth overall pick from the Rams, and they used that pick to trade down to pick number 12 and acquire some extra draft capital. They used that 12th pick to select Gibbs.
Personally, I understand moving on from Swift. He seems to have been plateauing in this league, and if anything was getting worse and continuously getting hurt. That’s fine. But you replaced his RB1 role with Montgomery, who is also a plateauing running back. While he stays more healthy, he also doesn’t add the same value in the receiving game that Swift adds. Overall, it’s not a terrible move, considering he’s recorded over 1,000 yards of scrimmage in every season of his career, but I’m not sure it’s an amazing signing either.
The move I do question is drafting Jahmyr Gibbs. Because look, I think most agree it was probably a reach taking him at 12th overall. He was good at Alabama don’t get me wrong, as he averaged 6.1 yards per attempt. At the same time, he also had Bryce Young as the guy taking the snap. I just don’t know if he is going to add enough value, especially replacing the role of either Gibbs or Williams, however you want to look at Detroit’s rotation. So while they’re not two terrible running backs, I actually think the Lions regressed in the running game this offseason!
The move I really liked from them was signing C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson led the NFL in interceptions last season in just 12 games. His ability to force turnovers and prevent deep passes is exceptional, and him alongside 2023 first round pick Brian Branch once he fully develops will be a monster pairing in the secondary. The thing to be concerned about though is that Gardner-Johnson isn’t incredible in one-on-one coverage. So Detroit doesn’t exactly have that problem figured out. Despite this, I still like the pickup, but I’m not sure their defense is ready to take the necessary steps to make this team a contender. You have Hutchinson and Gardner-Johnson, but that’s about it. I don’t quite trust the other starters, especially on the interior defensive line and in the secondary.
Overall, I think this team is ready to be a team that wins the NFC North, the first time that would happen in Lions history. But that’s kind of the point…the first time in Lions history. We’ve only seen one good half of football from this group of players. With a large whole at tight end, questions in the rushing attack and weaknesses at guard and in the secondary, I’m not super confident Detroit will reach a division winning level of play, like I do expect them to do. I just don’t have much confidence in the prediction.
Overall, this team has a ton of potential with a flashing offense, and some of the questions I do have could also turn into strengths; Jahmyr Gibbs is a perfect example of that. Also Jameson Williams, when he is allowed to play I do think he is going to make a big difference in the passing attack. I don’t think the Lions are legit Super Bowl contenders. But a division title and possibly a playoff win or two are definitely in the cards for Detroit, as they will be one of the more fun teams to watch in 2023!
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Twitter: Chase Coburn (@coolsportskid)
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