The Detroit Lions are pushing forward down the stretch of the 2022 season, and as they do, some questions continue to swirl about the team.
Whether or not many of these issues are legit is likely on the mind of plenty of fans. So as the season begins to round the corner and head for home, how much stock should be put into several pressing questions?
Here’s a look at breaking down some of those issues now, and how realistic they seem to be.
The Lions Defense Improved Minus Aubrey Pleasant
Prior to the dismissal of former secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant, Detroit wasn’t getting it done in terms of pass defense. The team was struggling to locate the ball and were getting pushed around in the second level.
Now, while the team may still be struggling statistically as a bottom three unit in the league, they’re at least competing and playing tough on the back end. Jerry Jacobs has sparked the team with his gritty play, and rookie Kerby Joseph has come into his own at safety.
Clearly, the Lions felt as if something was off with Pleasant from a teaching perspective, and ever since, the secondary is playing like a way more confident unit.
They may still surrender their share of big plays, but they have tackled better and are passing the eye test far more often.
Ben Johnson’s Ready to Become an NFL Head Coach
Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is getting a lot of hype as a coaching candidate and rightfully so after he has helped the Lions’ offense look competent enough to be near the top of many statistical categories.
Even though that’s true, it’s also true that Johnson probably needs another year or two of seasoning before he takes any job. The trend in the league has been to go with younger coordinators regardless of experience, so the NFL may well ignore this advice. Just imagine, though, what Johnson’s stock would look like if he presides over a playoff-bound Lions offense putting up numbers in 2023.
There’s enough situational lapses in play calling and execution that the league should want Johnson to get more seasoning. Still, this offseason and the likely interviews it will present will be invaluable to him moving forward.
The Lions Need to Get D’Andre Swift Involved More
Ever since his 2022 season was slowed by injury, there’s been a question about how much D’Andre Swift should be featured in the offense. Right now, though he hasn’t piled up the yards, the team seems to be making the most effective use of Swift as they ever have giving him meaningful touches.
The Lions will need to see Swift continue to make more big plays and get into the end zone with greater regularity. His touchdown drop cost them big time on Thanksgiving, but as Swift has shown, he can still be very dangerous even if he is not the featured back.
Detroit has done a solid job to involve Swift despite what some of the critics will say, and the load management might actually be helping him to stay healthy and effective on the field.
Jameson Williams’ Return Could Spark Lions’ Offense
If there’s one thing the Lions have been missing so far this year, it’s a speed element as well as the ability to make a deep down field play. Most of Detroit’s opponents have it, but the Lions have lacked it.
Jameson Williams will change all of that whenever he does suit up. As most folks remember, Williams was a walking big play at Alabama, and even though he’s been out rehabbing most of the year, it shouldn’t take him long to rediscover that magic in the NFL.
Right now, the only question is whether or not Jared Goff can get him the ball fast enough. The Lions won’t waste their time worrying about that, though. They simply want to turn Williams loose and see if he can be the game changer for the offense in terms of speed and home run ability that most know he can be.
Detroit’s Firmly in NFC Playoff Contention
It’s pretty clear that the Lions have too many major hurdles to jump back into the playoff race. With four wins and seven losses, their margin for error is a lot slimmer than many teams ahead of them.
If Detroit had just two more wins at this point, they’d be in play for a potential birth rather than simply “in the hunt.”
Even though this is the case, there is still a value for the team playing consequential football down the stretch. It gets a young roster used to do-or-die situations. Quite literally, the Lions will have to win most of their games and get plenty of help to give themselves a shot at the postseason. As impossible as it may seem, it’s a good teaching point.
Detroit can use the experience they gain this year trying to stay in the hunt and seeing what happens and put it toward the 2023 and 2024 seasons. By then, the team may be more equipped to score more wins that get them in contention a bit quicker than they did in 2022.