Lions’ Dan Campbell Puts the NFL on Notice

Dan Campbell

Getty Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell delivered a message to his team and the rest of the NFL on November 6.

The Detroit Lions sit in first place of the NFC North with a game and a half lead over the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions are also on pace for their first 12-win season since 1991.

But that doesn’t mean Lions head coach Dan Campbell didn’t use the bye week to self-scout his team’s weaknesses. His conclusion — the Lions can still be a lot better despite their strong start to the 2023 season.

“We still have left so much out there,” Campbell told the media on November 6. “As good as we’ve played to get six wins, we’ve been able to complement each other.

“But yet I would say we have not played our best football, collectively. Offensively, defensively, special teams.”

That’s a scary thought considering the Lions are ranked in the top five in both offensive yards and yards allowed on defense this season.

Campbell identified the turnover margin, red zone offense and defense and third-quarter production as the biggest things for the Lions to improve during the second half of the season.

Lions to ‘Take Another Step Up’ After Bye Week

In addition to being ranked in the top five in those yardage categories, Detroit is ninth in points scored and 14th in points allowed. Furthermore, the Lions are third in yardage differential and 10th in point differential.

One area where the Lions haven’t excelled, though, is turnover differential. Detroit has turned the ball over 10 times and forced 10 takeaways, giving the team an even 0 turnover margin.

While that’s perfectly average, Super Bowl contenders tend to be significantly above average in turnover differential. Of the last 16 Super Bowl participants since 2016, only two of them didn’t post a positive turnover margin during the regular season.

An even bigger problem for the Lions has been giving up points on those turnovers. Quarterback Jared Goff has thrown 5 interceptions this season. Of those 5 picks, opposing defenses have returned 2 of them for touchdowns.

“Cleaning some of those things up,” Campbell said. “Our focus to the details of what we’re doing have to take another step up, another notch up.”

The Lions could also improve in the red zone. Detroit has scored touchdowns on just 48.15% of their red zone possessions this season.

In their most recent matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Lions allowed the Raiders to stay within striking distance because they scored touchdowns on only 1 of 5 red zone possessions.

Lastly, the Lions haven’t outscored an opponent in the third quarter since the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1. Opposing teams have outscored the Lions 42-24 during the third quarter this season.

Lions Expecting Key Players to Return From Injury

One way NFL teams get better during the bye week is by getting healthy.

In Week 10 against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Lions could have three offensive starters back in the lineup, including two offensive linemen — center Frank Ragnow and left guard Jonah Jackson.

Running back David Montgomery is the other player who could return on November 12.

“Yeah, I think so,” Campbell said of those three players returning. “We’ll see tomorrow when we pad them up, but they’ve been trending the right way for a while. Certainly hopeful to get them.”

Jackson hasn’t played since October 8 while Ragnow missed the most recent game against Las Vegas.

Montgomery last played in Week 6 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ragnow and Jackson will presumably reassume their starting spots. However, the same might not be the case for Montgomery.

Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs posted a pair of 100-yard scrimmage performances and averaged nearly 6 yards per carry the past two games without Montgomery. Although Montgomery is also having a great season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Gibbs remain the team’s starter or at least cut into Montgomery’s snaps in the backfield.

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