Slow starts have bit the Detroit Lions in the butt the past two years, and Dan Campbell is determined not to let that happen again.
“That’s something that I’m always thinking about is how do we do this? Is there a different approach? Were we too light? Were we too hard? Do we need to have more volume? Do we need to have more intensity?” Campbell said Tuesday on the first day of mandatory minicamp. “And so, everything right now, it doesn’t necessarily pertain to what you’re asking because we’re so far away from training camp. It’s about the X’s and O’s right now, the situational work, which we’re getting a ton of. But I think it’s — as far as the way we go about business, I think we’re on track.”
The Lions opened 0-10-1 in Campbell’s first season as coach in 2021, then won three of their final six games. Last year, they started 1-6 then won eight of their final 10 to finish with their first winning record (9-8) since 2017.
Under Campbell, the Lions are 1-5 in September, 0-9 in October and 11-7-1 the rest of the year. They missed out on a wild card berth last season because of the tie-breaker.
“We won nine games last year and missed the playoffs by a game and are 0-0 right now and have a hell of a lot to prove this year,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “I know it’s exciting, I know our team is better, I know we’ve made key additions on defense, and even on offense in a lot of places, but we’ve got a lot of work to do and need to continue to get better if we want to reach that potential that we think we can do.
“We have the guys to do it, but by no means will we walk out there and just be the same team we were last year that we finished in Green Bay with a win. By no means. We need to put that work in and make sure we’re ready to go.”
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Campbell said he will tinker with the Lions’ schedule in training camp to have his team more prepared for the start of the 2023 season.
Last year, the Lions struggled defensively and with turnovers early, but excelled in those areas late. They allowed a league-worst 32.1 points per game in the first seven games last year, and only 20.2 points over the final 10 games. Goff, after losing 10 turnovers through Nov. 6, finished the season on a streak of 324 straight pass attempts without an interception.
Campbell said one thing he is considering is starting practices with a situational period this summer to put a bigger emphasis on that aspect of the game.
Within that, he also has to be conscious of keeping his team healthy and getting them to peak late in the season. Last year, the Lions’ win streak coincided with a return to more physical practices midway through the season, after injuries limited what they could accomplish early.
For now, Campbell said he’s more concerned with teaching the playbook and fundamentals than getting ready for the start of a season that still is 92 days away.
“You start doing that (now) and they get ramped up and all of a sudden, we’re too physical and that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing in spring,” Campbell said. “But yeah, I mean I think about it. I’m not turning a blind eye to it. And so, there’s a few ideas I have, but man, it’s a slippery slope. You go too far one way or another and you’re in trouble, but I keep my eyes on it.”
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.