The Detroit Lions have taken a turn this offseason and managed to build something that could last for the future. Perhaps not everyone is all-in on the idea of the team being an immediate success, though.
Detroit still has some problems that could be seen as critical in terms of the team making an immediate turnaround. One of these is a defense that has struggled in a big way, and an offense that did not make enough big plays.
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Yahoo! Sports analyst Frank Schwab recently took a look at breaking down the Lions ahead of the 2022 season. Amongst other things, his overall key conclusion was that the team might still have some big problems that will hold them back on the field. That was shown in the way they lost a key game down the stretch.
As he wrote, “in the second-to-last game they lost 51-29 against a Seattle Seahawks team that wasn’t close to being in the playoffs. Maybe we should be focusing on that when it comes to projecting the next step for this team. It’s still a team with a bad defense and an offense that didn’t get nearly enough explosive plays in the passing game last season. Had Detroit not come back to beat a Packers team playing for nothing in Week 18, they would have been the worst team in the NFL last season and picked first in the draft. Maybe the Lions will be in play for that first pick again.”
Many mock drafts have indeed had the Lions in-play for a top 10 pick again if not a top five pick. With this in mind, it’s clear some still think the Lions are primed to have a worse season than many might expect in spite of the positive buzz during the offseason if things do not improve in those key areas.
ESPN Insider Also Pressed Pause on Lions’ Offseason
Much like Schwab, ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell isn’t sure the team did enough to become elite in short order this year. Barnwell ranked every NFL offseason 1-32 in an insider piece on the site, and while many would be convinced the Lions would be hovering at the very least around the top 10 or top 15, Barnwell had the team all the way down in the 27th slot for their work, not far from the league’s basement at 32.
While Barnwell conceded some things went right for Detroit, such as staying the course and bringing back some productive players as well as signing responsible free agents and landing some solid values in the draft, he wasn’t a fan of most of what Detroit did. Specifically, as he wrote, he might not love the idea of keeping multiple Lions around from a roster that struggled in 2021.
“I applaud Detroit’s patience and restraint, but are we sure the best thing to do after a 3-13-1 season is double down on only signing Lions? The only player they added that should be guaranteed of a starting job in Week 1 is D.J. Chark, and he’s a free agent after the season. I’m surprised Detroit wasn’t a little more aggressive after the first week or two of free agency in trying to find bargains,” Barnwell wrote specifically in the piece about what he felt went wrong.
Additionally, Barnwell didn’t love the team making the decision to trade up for Jameson Williams in the draft. As he wrote, the team could have simply kept pick 32 and targeted a wideout there, as plenty of teams have done successfully recently, even though he conceded Williams is “an exciting prospect.”
All-told, this is one of the worst reviews for what Detroit has managed to do, and paints an unflattering picture of the team’s direction. As much as Barnwell liked what Detroit did in some ways, he clearly didn’t love it, as there was no reward for the Lions in terms of a higher position against league competition in these rankings.
Schwab Believes Lions Also Victims of Bad Luck
For all the uncertainty, Schwab makes a key admission in the piece. Detroit may have been a bit unlucky last year, something folks seem to understand given the team’s rash of close losses that were deflating. While the Lions do still have some serious flaws, the team could still manage a turnaround if they can get a few bounces that they did not receive in 2021.
“The Lions were 2-5-1 last season in games decided by seven or fewer points, and 1-4-1 in games decided by three points or less. That’s a sign of some bad luck and perhaps shows they’re not far off from a breakout. If that record in close games is closer to .500, and the Lions take some of their momentum from late last season into this season, it’s feasible they could go from 3-13-1 to a seven- or eight-win team. It seems like a team on an upward trajectory,” Schwab concluded in the piece.
In other words, if the Lions get a bit luckier, they could be a turnaround team. It’s fair to remember that there are still some notable flaws on the roster, however.