With a 3-13-1 record, it isn’t hard to proclaim the 2021 Detroit Lions’ season a failure, but within that struggle, there was some major themes that developed which could lead to future hope.
The Lions might now have a game plan toward an ideal turnaround for 2022, and the chances of them looking better could revolve around several key factors that must change.
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What should the Lions be focusing on this time around? Here’s a look at the specific things the team can look at which will help in creating a much better record this coming season.
Turn Multiple Close Losses Into Wins
Arguably, there was no team that was more prone to the close loss in 2021 than the Lions across the league. The team sustained several gut punches, both within the division and outside of it. Quite possibly the best or worst example of this for Detroit fans was a defeat against Baltimore in which the Lions lost on an NFL record 66 yard field goal.
The Ravens game is a perfect microcosm of what the Lions have to find a way not to do in 2022. The Lions can’t allow games to continue on fourth down with miracle plays, and cannot make critical mistakes in crunch time that allow the opposition to find life. Some bad luck might have been the biggest reason the Lions lost so many games, so finding the inches is going to be a must to ensure 2022 ends in less disappointing fashion.
Generate More Explosive Plays on Offense
Detroit’s offense wasn’t a magnet for big plays in 2021. In fact, quite the opposite was true. The team’s longest plays from scrimmage came from Kalif Raymond (75 yards) and D’Andre Swift (63 yards). Detroit’s longest run was a 57 yard scamper from Swift. Outside of this, there simply wasn’t any explosion. By adding Jameson Williams, a big play waiting to happen in college, and DJ Chark, the Lions have taken some steps to solving this. A healthier year from Swift as well as T.J. Hockenson could help the Lions make more big plays as well.
Plays like this from Swift and others will be needed to make the Lions a dangerous team. Swift looked dangerous in this game, but it should merely be a start to what he looks like week in and week out. More scoring and explosion is a huge goal for the franchise.
Find More Takeaways on Defense
It isn’t just about finding more big plays on offense. Detroit’s defense needs to figure out how to turn in the big play more regularly as well. Last season, cornerback Amani Oruwariye was a lone bright spot with 6 interceptions. The problem? The rest of the team had only 5 other picks to support him. Detroit also only forced 12 fumbles and recovered 15, pointing to a need for more sudden-change plays on the defensive side of things. Getting the offense more abrupt chances will mean the Lions can be more dangerous and keep the opposition on their toes in a better way. That has to be the goal for the Lions in thinking about the team’s defense this coming year.
Sack the Quarterback More Consistently
During the 2021 season, the Lions collected 30 sacks. While that might seem like a decent total for some, it was actually quite pedestrian for Detroit. The team’s leading sack man was Charles Harris, who put up 7.5 sacks. The Lions need to find someone on the roster capable of going for 12 sacks or more, and it’s possible that rookie Aidan Hutchinson could become that guy for a scuffling roster. Detroit will also be counting on Romeo Okwara to surge after injury. It seems that the Lions have been looking for more sacks for a long time, and beefing up the defensive line with names like Josh Paschal, Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill should also help them to achieve this mission. It will only matter if it pays off in sacks, though, which means there is pressure on this group to find a way to finally make some things happen in the pocket.
Get Jared Goff off to a Faster Start
Before Goff’s arrival last offseason, consistent quarterback play was far from a problem for the team. The Lions knew they could count on Matthew Stafford start to finish, but early in 2021 the gap was noticeable between he and Goff. This isn’t all Goff’s fault, of course, but he must hit the ground running in a big way right off the bat in 2022 in order for the Lions to have a chance at having a better year. Through the first seven games last year, Goff put up just 8 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and 1,773 yards. That’s not terrible, but also pretty average. Goff needs to find a way to start the year like he finished it late against the Arizona Cardinals.
If this is the Goff the Lions get to start the season, their offense will have a better chance to break out than many expect. It hinges on Goff’s ability to distribute the ball well and be effective with his decision making.