In terms of surprises, there were plenty in the NFL this past season, and some of the biggest resided with the Detroit Lions.
Not only did the team impress with their 9-8 record, they opened eyes most of the year with a top-four offense in the league led by rising coordinator Ben Johnson. As part of that, the team’s passing game impressed in a significant way, and metrically speaking, was a group that over-performed in 2022.
NFL.com analyst Cynthia Frelund took a look at naming the position groups that over-performed during the 2022 season. The Lions’ wideout group made the cut at second-overall.
“Of the major offseason additions to the pass-catching corps, first-round pick Jameson Williams was not guaranteed to even see the field in 2022 coming off a torn ACL, and though free agent DJ Chark was a plus, he didn’t inspire a huge shift in forecasted total output for an offense that recorded the lowest average depth of passing target in 2021 (6.8, per Pro Football Focus). The numbers — including the offensive line’s preseason ranking of fifth in win share, which ended up being consistent with its sixth-place finish — suggested Detroit’s offense would likely rely on the run to set up a short passing game. It did play out that way, but between the scheme and quarterback Jared Goff’s execution, the passing offense was so much more valuable than originally forecast,” Frelund wrote in the piece.
Detroit’s passing offense put up major numbers, and ranked eighth in the league, cranking out 251.8 yards per-game to go with 4,281 yards and 29 touchdowns. They drove the majority of the success the Lions had, but also had help from a stout ground game that ranked 11th best in the league.
All-told, the Lions offensive groups complemented each other well. While there may have been some lukewarm expectations entering the 2022 season, the team was able to shatter those in terms of the stats, metrics and eye-test start to finish.
Having a group over-perform is a good problem to have, and the Lions managed to get that type of year from their passing offense and pass catchers according to this exercise.
Lions Receivers Enjoyed Fantastic 2022 Season
The entire season was phenomenal for most Detroit wideouts, and nearly everyone in the group stepped up in terms of the stats they put up as well as the production they showed.
Amon-Ra St. Brown has been the Lions’ leading receiver. He managed to put up 1,161 yards and six touchdowns on the season. The fact that he was able to finish over 1,000 yards was a big feather in his cap toward being thought of as an elite talent in the league, and perhaps Detroit’s best receiver.
DJ Chark put up a total of 502 yards and three touchdowns on 30 catches. More importantly, though, he seemed to come on down the stretch over the last few critical weeks of the season with major plays, which could lead him to a return.
Perhaps the most underrated player at the position? Kalif Raymond 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. Additionally, Josh Reynolds chipped in a valuable 479 yards and three scores.
This group was solid and dependable during the 2022 season, and depending on what happens in the offseason, they could remain dangerous moving forward given Detroit’s offensive plan and tools.
Jameson Williams Could Emerge for 2023
In terms of the future, it would be fair for folks to wonder whether this performance from the group was simply a flash-in-the-pan or not. There’s one player that could determine whether or not that is the case in Jameson Williams, and tip the scales with a big performance.
While recovering from an ACL injury, Williams sat on the sidelines most of the year as a non-factor in the Detroit offense. When he returned, he did so with a bang, scoring a touchdown in his first NFL game against Minnesota.
Though Williams would finish with just 81 all-purpose yards on the year, his performance may have been just the beginning according to general manager Brad Holmes. Speaking in his season-ending wrap up, Homes admitted that he feels as if Williams is going to be able to do what he’s asked and continue to perform.
“He made some big plays and he had some flashes but the other thing about Jameson, he’s just a football player. Whatever the role is,” Holmes told the media on January 10. “I know a lot was made about that first game and was he going to be on punt team and all that stuff. That dude just wants to be out there on the football field. That’s just how he’s wired. That’s how he is. I don’t think anything he did this year was anywhere remotely close to where he’s going to go.”
What the role is remains to be seen, but Holmes has faith in Williams being able to put in the work in order to make himself a dominant piece of the puzzle for the team moving forward.
“We’ll determine what that role is and a lot of it is on him too. He’s going to have to put the work in the offseason. He’s going to have to be dedicated in his approach and we can provide all the resources and lay it all out, but he’s going to have to to take the accountability and do it on his own,” Holmes said to the media. “Got a lot of faith and confidence in Jameson. Obviously because we traded up for him and made the move for him, we all had the same beliefs. I think he’s going to be just fine.”
If Williams does indeed find his role and break out, that will be a big way the Lions can get over the hump and keep their wideout group dangerous in 2023.
In the end, they may end up surprising once more for what they do on the field and not stagnating at all off a fantastic year.