Is the Detroit Lions Hype Justified?
For the first time in a very long time, people are backing the NFC North’s most unsuccessful team to win the division. Is the Detroit Lions hype justified? That’s the question I will aim to answer.
Is the Detroit Lions Hype Justified?
It’s unusual to see hype surrounding the Detroit team. They have never been crowned champions of the NFC north division since its creation in 2002. Their last division title came back in 1993, the last of only three in the Super Bowl era. You must go back to 1991 to find the last Lions playoff win.
In short, this is not a franchise accustomed to being successful on any level, which is why I’m surprised at the urgency to crown them as the new dominant force in the north. There’s plenty of potential in the building in Detroit, but are they ready to win the division and go head-to-head with the league’s best in the playoffs?
We start by looking at last season, where a 9-8 second-place finish, which wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs, is being lauded as a great success. It’s fair to say the other three teams in the division would never be praised for such a performance. What the Lions did do, was finish strongly. After a poor start which saw just one win in the opening seven games, the Lions finished the season with eight wins in the last 10 games, including five straight wins against divisional opponents.
The problem at the start of the season was a terrible defense, which saw defensive backs coach and pass game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant fired. The secondary was the major problem for the Lions, and the change did coincide with the Lions improving to win games. The season stats weren’t good, though, ranking last for yards per game (392.4), 30th for passing yards per game (245.8), 29th for rushing yards per game (146.5), and 28th for points per game (25.1).
The second half of the season was better for Detroit’s defense, but they didn’t exactly play a murder’s row of offenses, either. They played Chicago and Green Bay twice, and both New York teams, also shipping 37 points against the eventual 7-10 Carolina Panthers. A disappointing loss that cost them a chance at the playoffs.
Dan Campbell is the man in charge in Detroit, and in two seasons, he has successfully managed to revitalize the franchise. He deserves credit for that, but now the Lions come into the season under the weight of expectation. Campbell’s coaching style seems to have largely revolved around an “us against the world” mentality. A hunger to prove people wrong and show the Detroit Lions should be taken seriously.
Going into the 2023 season, the Lions are being taken seriously and tipped by many to be division champions and end their long playoff drought. Being a plucky team that gives everyone a game and comes out with a few victories won’t be good enough this season. Is Campbell’s coaching style conducive to that, or can he adapt? It’s a bigger season for Campbell than anyone else in Detroit. He needs a successful one to show her the man for the next step in the Lions journey.
Jared Goff made his way to Detroit as part of the trade that took Matthew Stafford to the LA Rams. The move has revitalized his career. After quarterbacking the Rams to an appearance in Super Bowl LIII, his career had been on the decline. The Lions were a good landing appt for him, playing behind a very good offensive line and running game. The Lions have enough talent in the receiving areas for Goff to thrive. His best attributes are working the short and intermediary throwing routes. The Lions have managed to get the best out of Goff in his two seasons in Detroit, culminating in his third Pro Bowl selection in 2022.
Amon-Ra St. Brown is one of Detroit’s best success stories. A fourth-round pick just two years ago, he has already forced himself into the conversation of the league’s best wide receivers. He has over 2000 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns over his first two seasons, as well as the ability to be used in the run game – where he has a further touchdown. St. Brown is an excellent poster boy for the Lions franchise, a mid-round pick who is a good route runner that was overlooked, but through resiliency, toughness, and determination, he is proving himself to be one of the league’s best. A big year in 2023 would cement his place amongst the league’s elite.
Peneii Sewell came into the league with high expectations as the seventh overall pick of the 2021 draft. He had a solid rookie season and improved in Year 2, giving up just two sacks, per PFF, who gave him an overall grade of 80.6 – tenth best among offensive tackles across the league. Sewell’s potential and high draft
Aidan Hutchinson fell to his home state club, who took him with the second overall pick of the 2022 draft. He didn’t disappoint in his rookie season, amassing 52 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, and 9.5 sacks. Despite battling niggling injuries, it was an excellent rookie campaign that earned Hutchinson PFWA All-Rookie team honors. The Lions will be hoping for even better in Year 2, and Hutchinson is progressing toward the elite pass rushers in the league.
R1 Pick 12 RB Jahmyr Gibbs
R1 pick 18 LB Jack Campbell
R2 pick 34 TE Sam LaPorta
R2 pick 45 CB Brian Branch
R3 pick 68 QB Hendon Hooker
R3 pick 96 DT Brodric Martin
R5 pick 152 OT Colby Sorsdal
R7 pick 219 WR Antoine Green
The Lions raised some eyebrows with their draft selections, mainly the positions they drafted early in the draft. With two firsts and two seconds to play with, they went with what’s regarded as non-premium positions. Adding a running back with the 12 overall pick, after signing David Montgomery in free agency appeared puzzling when it was a position the Lions were strong last season, but the Lions chose to refresh the position with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams leaving Detroit. Nevertheless, the Lions added good players to their roster with six picks in the first three rounds.
Free Agent Additions
CB Mac McCain – signed 1-year, $870,000 deal.
CB Cameron Sutton – signed 3-year, $33 million deal.
CB Emmanuel Moseley – signed 1-year, $6 million deal.
RB David Montgomery – signed 3-year, $18 million deal.
IOL Graham Glasgow – signed 1-year, $4.5 million deal.
DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson – signee 1-year, $8 million deal.
LS Jake McQuaide – signed 1-year, $1.3 million deal.
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin — signed a 1-year, $1.75 million deal.
WR Marvin Jones – signed a 1-year, $3 million deal.
The Lions will be competitive and have a chance of winning the division for the first time in three decades. However, I don’t foresee them dominating and winning 13/14 games. Their second-place last season gives them a tougher schedule this year, giving them games against Seattle, Baltimore, and Dallas rather than their fourth-place schedule, which they are more accustomed to. Sealing the NFC North this year may only take 10 or 11 wins. The division doesn’t look especially strong. Lions fans should be excited, and I expect 9/10 wins from them. It’s their best chance for a long time, but they shouldn’t expect it to be easy.