2023 Detroit Lions Offseason Preview
Dan Campbell's first season with the Lions, 2021, presented an obvious culture change for the organization. It didn't result in a difference in the on-field product as the Lions won just three games. In 2022, Detroit's philosophical shift plus smart spending in the draft manifested in a turnaround that could be seen in the win column. After falling to a 1-6 record, Detroit rattled off eight wins in their final ten games, culminating in a second win over the Packers in Week 18. It was the first time the team had swept Green Bay since 2017. That was also the Lions' most recent winning season. Detroit narrowly missed the playoffs but put themselves back in the contender conversation.
Key Offensive Stats
Points per game: 26.6 (5th)
EPA per play: 0.07 (6th)
Dropback EPA per play: 0.17 (3rd)
Passing yards per game: 251.8 (8th)
Rush EPA per play: -0.07 (18th)
Rush yards per game: 128.2 (11th)
Detroit's passing attack ran through Amon-Ra St. Brown. The second-year receiver picked up where he left off at the end of his rookie campaign, opening the 2022 season with 321 total yards and three touchdowns in as many games. A minor injury would derail him for a few weeks, but he still managed to finish the season with 106 catches for 1,161 yards. His success propelled Jared Goff to a massive rebound. Goff ranked sixth in the NFL in EPA per play and averaged 7.6 yards per throw. Though fantasy Twitter undoubtedly wanted to see D'Andre Swift unleashed, Jamaal Williams excelled as a between-the-tackles grinder, earning his first 1,000-yard season while scoring a league-high, 17 times. Swift was a big-play threat on every down but rarely saw a snap share over 50 percent.
Key Defensive Stats
Points per game: 25.1 (28th)
EPA per play: 0.08 (31st)
Dropback EPA per play: 0.13 (29th)
Passing yards per game: 245.8 (30th)
Rush EPA per play: 0.02 (27th)
Rush yards per game: 146.5 (29th)
Things weren't as rosy for the Lions on defense. No team gave up more yards per play than Detroit and only three teams were scored on at a higher per-drive rate. The Lions had three players take over 400 snaps at outside corner. All three were ranked outside of Pro Football Focus's top 100 corners in coverage. The defensive line performed better, generating the ninth-best pressure rate in the league. However, the bigs rarely got home, registering just 2.3 sacks per game. Rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson lived up to the hype, totaling 9.5 sacks, three interceptions, and a pair of fumble recoveries. He and fellow rookie Kerby Joseph were two of the Lions' few bright spots on defense.
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6th, 18th, 48th, 55th, and 82nd
Notable Free Agents
WR D.J. Chark, RB Jamaal Williams, CB Mike Hughes, LB Alex Anzalone, S DeShon Elliott, C Evan Brown, DT Isaiah Buggs, and S Will Harris
EDGE Romeo Okwara ($7.5 million in savings), RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai ($6.6 million), and EDGE Charles Harris ($4 million)
The Lions have an extra pick in the first round from the Matthew Stafford trade and an extra pick in the second round from the T.J. Hockenson trade.
Jeff Okudah has struggled in all three years of his career, making it likely that the Lions will not pick up his fifth-year option. Given the team's struggles at defending the pass, corner has to be their highest priority this offseason.
Detroit got a few touchdowns from their tight end room after the Hockenson trade, but no one stepped up as a consistent producer. With defense being their priority in the draft, tight end could be a spot they turn to a free agent to fill.
As expected, the Lions cut defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Fellow defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs is also a free agent, as is defensive lineman John Cominsky.
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Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson turned down the opportunity to interview for a head coaching gig this offseason. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn interviewed for that position with the Colts but did not land the job. Despite having some of the most sought-after staffers in the league, the bulk of Detroit's staff will return for the 2023 season.
The Lions took the next step in 2022 and are poised for a postseason berth in the upcoming season. Their biggest question this offseason will be whether to commit to Goff or draft a quarterback with one of their many selections early in the draft. Goff doesn't have the ceiling of a high-end rookie, but, with a little more help on defense, it's easy to see the Lions becoming a playoff-bound squad with him at the helm. Forgoing the quarterback position in the draft also allows Detroit to add more talent that will contribute in the upcoming season. Assuming that is the route Detroit takes, the Lions will at least enter 2023 as everyone's favorite bet to go from sitting on the couch in January to playing postseason football.