The Detroit Lions enjoyed a very solid season by their own standards, going 9-8 after a dreadful 1-6 start to the year.
Even though the team didn’t accomplish any of their other missions, they still witnessed the major growth of several players which could lead to some bigger and better things in the future.
While the season offered major hope for the future, it also offered a major glimpse as it relates to what players will be the ones driving the team forward with big performances in coming years after stepping up to the plate in 2022-23.
Here’s a look at the players that deserve the most credit for raising their games last year.
Alex Anzalone, Linebacker
Entering into the season, few folks were excited the Lions elected to bring back Alex Anzalone at linebacker. With every tackle he made, though, he managed to prove the doubters wrong.
Statistically, Anzalone managed to have a career year in Detroit. This past season, he put up 125 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one interception. Prior to that, his high water mark in tackles was 78 in 2021.
In terms of his own play, it can be said that Anzalone has led the way for the Lions in a ton of senses. He also is an inspirational leader for the locker room.
“Year 6— Best year yet. Not because of the results but because of the journey. Beyond thankful for all of the blessings and lessons this year. Thank you God!,” Anzalone tweeted shortly after the season ended.
Anzalone has grown not only as a player but as a leader within the defense. For this reason, the Lions might have to think about keeping him around again.
Jared Goff, Quarterback
When the Lions had Jared Goff in 2021, he posted some frustrating stats, throwing for just 3,245 yards and 19 touchdowns. As a result, many likely didn’t see him as the quarterback of the future for the team.
After a sterling 2022 season, that notion could be set to change more than a bit.
This past year, Goff put up a very solid 29 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. Goff threw for a solid 4,438 yards and has been a quality game manager for the Lions. He avoided the big mistakes for the most part, and been a player who has looked very comfortable within the team’s offense as well as comfortable leading the team off the field, something he proved as Detroit’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.
Goff showed off his stuff at every turn, and as a result, Detroit should embrace him right back. It was a big season for him in plenty of ways.
Jamaal Williams, Running Back
It’s not that Jamaal Williams wasn’t good for the Lions in 2021 statistically with 601 rushing yards and three touchdowns, it’s simply that he was so much better in 2022
As a whole, Williams has a gaudy slash line this year for Detroit. He rushed for 1,066 yards and 17 touchdowns. Additionally, he managed to put up 73 receiving yards for the team. He was Detroit’s leading rusher on the season, and always dependable.
Williams also made some pretty significant history for the team this past season.
With two touchdowns against Green Bay in Week 18, Williams set the single-season rushing touchdown record in Detroit with 17 scores, surpassing Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. The dagger score came on third-and-goal in the fourth quarter:
There’s no questioning the fact that Williams looks like he should be a fixture in the team’s backfield. Williams got himself to the point where he was a record-setter, and that was very significant.
Kalif Raymond, Wide Receiver
Underrated has been the best word to describe Kalif Raymond through the years, but this season, he was as vital to the team’s success as any player and seemed to grow by leaps and bounds in multiple ways.
Raymond has stepped up as a dependable target for the Lions at wide receiver when he needs to be due to injury or other concern given 616 yards on 47 catches. More than that, though, he’s bringing a game-changing element to special teams on punt and kick returns.
This season, Raymond also contributed a punt return in the first quarter for a score which helped the Lions win a vital game against the New York Jets in December 20-17.
Raymond is a solid player across the board, and was a big reason for Detroit’s success in multiple different ways. Seeing him take over the punt return job while also being a key wide receiver only showed that he can handle everything thrown his way.
Jeff Okudah, Cornerback
It’s true that by the end of the season, Jeff Okudah seemed to be on a much worse trajectory than he was at the midway point. Even such, it’s tough to argue that 2022 was not a huge step forward for the defensive back.
After being hurt much of his first two seasons in the league and having to catch up, Okudah did a solid job to play a lock down brand of cornerback and also bring the big play gene to the defense. Against Dallas, Okudah contributed 15 total tackles. He also had a game-changing
All told, Okudah would finish the season with 73 tackles, one interception and seven passes defended. The Lions are likely to add offseason help at cornerback, but it won’t be because they are totally dissatisfied with Okudah. He grew a decent amount this past season and seemed to show some of the skills that made him a top-five pick.