The calendar has flipped to another new year, and with 2023 now everyone’s reality, it’s time to think about the future for the Detroit Lions.
Regardless of how the team finishes out the season, there are a ton of goals to accomplish moving forward for the team, and lots of opportunities for a few next steps to be taken on the field.
When it comes to the new year, the offseason and the start of next season, what are some potential resolutions for the team? There’s plenty of ideas, and quite a few are on the defensive side of the ball.
Repair the Defensive Line Further
The last two years, the Lions have done a nice job to reconstruct things on the field in terms of their defensive front. Even though that’s the case, the chance is there to make even more gains in 2023.
After adding names like Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike in 2021 and Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston in 2022, the Lions could benefit greatly from adding another top-flight defensive tackle or edge rusher in the draft. Doing this will help them to stop the run and continue to stay after the quarterback in a big way.
Dropping another elite defensive lineman into the group could help take the Lions’ front from average or above average to dominating. Fortunately, between the draft featuring Georgia’s Jalen Carter and Clemson’s Bryan Bresee and free agency with Washington’s Da’Ron Payne, there are options for help.
Detroit needs to be able to stop the run much better than than the 2,333 yards and 22 touchdowns they’ve given up this season. That means a focus on the middle of the line.
Make More Additions to the Secondary
Most of the 2022 season, the Detroit secondary has been the weakness of the team. Far too often, the Lions have allowed big plays to haunt them on the back end which has been their defensive downfall.
There’s good news, though, in the fact that changes should be coming to the group. The Lions have a few key free agents at the position in Mike Hughes and Amani Oruwariye, neither of which should be considered locks to return. The draft also features some top options in Joey Porter Jr., Christian Gonzales and Kelee Ringo, any of whom could be ideal for Detroit.
It’s a good year to need cornerbacks, so the Lions have to step up and get some help at this very vital position on the field. Doing so could help them change the game on defense.
Continue to Support Jared Goff
What the team should look into doing, however, is exactly what they did during the 2022 offseason. They need to focus on giving Goff as great a chance to be successful as possible by keeping around playmakers he’s comfortable with, developing more young offensive talent and bringing some others in from the outside.
A 40-14 win over Jacksonville in which Goff threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns showed his value:
Wideout DJ Chark should return, and D’Andre Swift has shown his value in recent weeks. The Lions need to keep their offensive line amongst the best in the league to protect Goff, given he looks like a different quarterback with a clean pocket.
Offensively, if Ben Johnson departs for a new job, the Lions have to make a move Goff is comfortable with at offensive coordinator to keep the continuity going.
Every decision the Lions make this season on offense should go through Goff, given his overall importance to the roster right now.
Apply Lessons From 2022’s Finish
Much like the team used the momentum they gained with some unexpected wins down the stretch in 2021, the same must be applied from Detroit’s stunning finish to 2022.
Last season, the Lions were spoilers rather than true playoff contenders. This year, they’ve become contenders with their hot run of wins. Getting experience in a one-game season playoff push down the stretch could prove huge for a young roster in the future.
During the offseason, the Lions need to focus on bottling some of the magic they used to pull out so many big wins. They need to develop a bit of swagger, because they’ve earned it relative to what they accomplished this season.
It isn’t a stretch to think that the Lions could continue to trend in the right direction next year. If that’s going to be the case, it will happen as a result of lessons learned
Get off to a Better Start in 2023
As much as folks like to point to personal stats as important for players in a franchise turnaround, it’s also important for the team to take some statistical steps as well.
If the Lions have been falling behind in one category lately with regards to this, it’s been in their seasonal starts. Since the 2016 season, the Lions are well below the .500 mark in their first six games of any season. They are 15-26-1 over that span the last seven years on the field. Their best mark in that timeframe? An average 3-3 start, achieved in 2016, 2017 and 2020.
Detroit has to find a way to not have to play catch-up in the standings if they want to take the next step toward being an NFC North contender and a true threat to make the playoffs. They’ve become a nice story the years they’ve clawed back to respectability such as 2016, 2017 and 2022, but that cannot be the norm.
With some improvements and a better start, the Lions can take even more leaps during the 2023 season.