The Detroit Lions have been very quiet during free agency when it comes to signing other team’s free agents. That’s why it may seem that on the onset, the Lions are fielding pretty much the same exact team as they did in 2022. But that’s not case. The Lions offense is going to be very different from the one you saw most of the 2021 season, even if this offense features some of the same names.
Last year, the Lions averaged just 19.1 points per game, good for 25th in the league. But this year, despite only minor changes, Detroit’s offense could be lethal. Let me explain why.
The Lions have a number one receiver
Let’s start with the obvious. The Lions wanted a big body receiver that had the size to go up and get it and the speed to take the top off a defense. The Lions have that guy in DJ Chark. he’s 6-foot-4 and runs a blistering 4.34 40. One of Jared Goff’s biggest issues in 2021 was that he didn’t have a big guy that he could send it down the field to. Defenses did a good job of taking away his one option in T.J. Hockenson. Chark opens the offense up a lot and will make Hockenson’s life a lot easier just like he’ll make Jared Goff’s life easier.
Hockenson is back
Hockenson had a rough 2021 season. One of the biggest reasons is that it became entirely predictable that Goff would pass to Hockenson. We explained above one of the reasons why he kept doing that. Hockenson is a big guy who can present a mismatch for defenses. He’s also a sure-handed receiver that doesn’t put a lot of balls on the ground.
Last season, unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Hockenson in the lineup when the offense finally started clicking. He missed the season’s final five games with an injury. Hockenson should be able to eat in this offense next season if it opens up like it should.
St. Brown will hit the ground running
Amon-Ra St. Brown had a big season last year. He broke all kinds of Lions receiving records and looked like a flat out star. But it wasn’t always that way. It was a tale of two halves for St. Brown. Early on, it looked like the Lions didn’t quite know what to do with him until he had a big break out game against the Vikings… all the way into December.
Previous to that game, St. Brown had 39 receptions for 352 yards and no touchdowns in 11 games. Then he went on a crazy six-game run where he racked up 51 receptions for 560 yards and five touchdowns.
It’s safe to say that we don’t really even know how good this kid can be because the sample size of him being really good is only six games long. St. Brown also did all that without Hockenson and Chark on the roster. What can he do with help?
Reynolds was on the Lions last year, but only for the final half of the season. He was thrown to the wolves as soon as he got here, and as a result, he had some great moments mixed in with some other moments where looked a little lost out there. What do you expect from a guy who had to adjust to a new offense in the middle of the season? What can Reynolds bring to the table after a full camp with the Lions?
The Lions offensive line will be at full strength
The Lions offensive line proved to be a strength for the Lions last season. PFF ranked the Lions offensive line 13th in the league after the season. The Lions managed that without arguably their two best offensive linemen for half the season. Left tackle Taylor Decker missed eight games, while All-Pro center Frank Ragnow missed 13. Both should be back and healthy in 2022, and so will the rest of the offensive line. In fact, Detroit is bringing back all of their depth, too.
Combine that with the potential growth of the line’s young pieces—Penei Sewell building off a very good rookie year and Jonah Jackson coming off his first Pro Bowl season—and you’ve got a unit that, as offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said, could be “not just good, but dominant.”
The return of confident Jared Goff
This one is half factual and half wishful thinking. Jared Goff looked like the worst quarterback in the league early on in the season. Then things changed dramatically. Goff turned into a pretty decent quarterback in the second half of the season. He was accurate, poised, got rid of the turnovers, started throwing down field more, and just generally looked like the 2018 version of himself that everyone had wondered what happened to.
Since Week 12, Jared Goff is….
-3rd in the NFL in passer rating (107.1)
– 4th in comp. % (69.6%)
– 11th in passing TDs (11)
– t-2nd in fewest INTs (2)
– 6th in adjusted yards/attempt (7.86)
— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) January 10, 2022
Assuming Goff continues to be that guy, he has help now in Chark, Reynolds, St. Brown, and fully healthy offensive line. We still don’t really know what Goff can do in Detroit with an actual good cast of players around him. We’re about to find out in 2022.
The Lions have a run game
Don’t forget about the Lions run game. It actually works now. With D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds on the roster, the Lions run game should continue to improve with a healthy offensive line blocking for them and a receiving corps that should keep defenses honest. Those are two things this group didn’t have in 2021, and they still rushed for a respectable 4.4 yards per carry.
A full season of Dan Campbell and Ben Johnson
Here’s the big one. We talked a lot about tales of two halves in this piece. The big spark that ignited players after the bye was Dan Campbell taking over the Lions play calling. It changed everything, and the Lions became a much more dangerous team once they got a hold of things under Campbell. Tight ends coach Ben Johnson was responsible for installing some of the more innovative plays that helped the Lions offense succeed during that time. Now he’s the Lions offensive coordinator, and he can bring that innovation to the table full time. It has not yet been decided who will call the plays when he season starts. The Lions should be in good shape regardless of who it winds up being.