The Lions are a team getting a lot of hype this off-season due to the moves that were made. Significant upgrades were made at the WR and DL positions. There is a head coach and staff that have seemed to awaken a fan base in the city and give hope to better times ahead. Only time will tell if the new regime will be able to bring a winning team to Detroit, but all signs are pointing in the right direction.
Below, we will grade each of the position groups heading into the 2022 season for the Lions:
QB: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough
Explanation: Goff is coming off the lowest QBR since his rookie year. However, four out of his last five starts were significant improvements from the beginning of the year. The lions have a potential out in Goff’s contract this year, so this is a big prove it year for Goff. The Lions went out and improved the WR unit immensely this off-season by adding DJ Chark and Jameson Williams. There will be no excuses this year for Goff.
RB: D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Godwin Igwebuike, Jermar Jefferson
Explanation: One of the better RB units in the NFL. Swift has explosive potential but we’ve yet to see a full, healthy season of it. Jamaal Williams is a very solid back who was able to carve out 600 yards last season. The Lions even got help from Reynolds and Igwebuike last season. This year, look for Swift’s role to be expanded even more and be relied upon heavily. Swift staying healthy in 2022 will be the main priority, but Williams should help that by getting a solid amount of the carries.
WR: DJ Chark, Jameson Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Quintez Cepheus, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy, Josh Johnson, Corey Sutton, Kalil Pimpleton
Explanation: The most improved position group on this team and maybe even the NFL. Amon-Ra was able to breakout the second half of the year and be one of the better WR in the NFL at that time. DJ Chark comes in during free agency on a prove it deal to show he can stay healthy and that his 2019 1,000-yard season was no fluke. The Lions traded up to get the explosive Jameson Williams. He is coming off an ACL tear in January so it is unsure how soon he will be suiting up. In the second unit, Reynolds showed flashes worthy of resigning another year. Cepheus was just starting to get going in 2021 before an injury knocked him out for the year. Raymond is one of the fastest players in the league which is always a nice piece to have. 2022 will be a big year for a lot of these guys to stay healthy and show their potential.
TE: TJ Hockenson, Brock Wright, James Mitchell, Garrett Griffin, Shane Zylstra
Explanation: TJ Hockenson was having a very solid year until an injury shut him down for the season after 12 games. Staying healthy will be a big task for Hockenson in 2022 as the lions are spread thin as it is at the tight end position. Brock Wright showed some flashes with a couple touchdown receptions. However, this is not the ideal depth at a position group which many teams would be comfortable with, even though you have a Pro Bowl talent at TE1. Expect the Lions to potentially add some veteran depth before training camp. Mitchell was added in the fifth round of the draft but is coming off an ACL tear.
OL: Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Penei Sewell, Matt Nelson, Logan Sternberg, Evan Brown, Tommy Kraemer, Dan Skipper, Obinna Eze, Zein Obeid, Ryan McCollum, Kevin Jarvis
Explanation: On paper, this is one of the better OL in the entire NFL. Decker is one of the more underrated LT in the NFL, Jackson was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2021 as a second-year player, Ragnow is the highest paid Center for good reason, Vaitai is one of the better run blockers in the league, and Sewell is a rising star at tackle. The key to this group is staying healthy as a unit for a full season because there is not a ton of depth behind them. Evan Brown came in and gave very solid play for injured Ragnow in 2022 but not a ton of quality starts behind him. High expectations will be on this starting unit in 2022.
DL: Aidan Hutchinson, Romeo Okwara, Alim McNeil, Michael Brockers, Levi Onwuzurike, Charles Harris, Julian Okwara, John Penisini, Josh Paschal, Jashon Cornell, James Houston, John Cominsky, Austin Bryant, Bruce Hector, Eric Banks
Explanation: Finishing third from last in team sacks shows that a pass rush upgrade was needed. Romeo Okwara went down early in the season with a torn Achilles and will be back in 2022 which will be a major help after he had 10 sacks in 2020. Charles Harris had 7.5 sacks in 2021 and was resigned. The Lions took Aidan Hutchinson No. 2 overall and he should be an immediate impact player off the edge. Josh Paschal also went in the third round and brings a ton of explosiveness. Julian Okwara will also look to progress on his five-sack season in 2021. On the interior, McNeil looks to be a legit run stuffer and Onwuzurike should be healthier this year going into year two. The position group is retooled and there will be a lot of expectations moving forward.
LB: Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Jarrad Davis, Malcolm Rodriguez, Chris Board, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Natrez Patrick, Anthony Pittman, Josh Woods
Explanation: The Lions need much better linebacker play in 2022. Anzalone comes back as a veteran leader to wear the green dot but who will play along side him is still a question. The staff will hope second year player Derrick Barnes can make that leap but only time will tell. Malcolm Rodriguez was taken in the sixth round but has a tremendous work ethic and potential. Jarrad Davis comes back to the team he started his career with and will have some sort of a role, whether in the box or on the edge. Overall, play will need to progress this year for the defense to make any big jumps.
CB: Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Jerry Jacobs, Mike Hughes, AJ Parker, Chase Lucas, Bobby Price, Saivion Smith, Mark Gilbert
Explanation: Oruwariye had a good year in 2021 with six interceptions and Jerry Jacobs stepped up and played well as an undrafted free agent, before going down with an ACL injury. A lot will be riding on Jeff Okudah and how he comes back from a torn Achilles. He has yet to live up to the number three pick from 2020 but there is still hope in his talent. It’s a very young group but one that has a lot of potential.
S: DeShon Elliot, Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Kerby Joseph, CJ Moore, JuJu Hughes, Brady Breeze
Explanation: Signing Tracy Walker was of man not importance this off-season and the Lions were able to do so. The signing of DeShon Elliot also helped fill the other safety position. Kerby Joseph being drafted in the third round added depth and a potential starter. Safety is of major importance to a defense and DC Aaron Glenn asks a lot out of the position. Elliot will have to prove his value this year, but this is a position group that has definitely upgraded this off-season.