The Detroit Lions started 2021 with a new coach, a new quarterback, and seemingly, a new lease on life. But following a disappointing 5-11 campaign, things went from bad to worst in Motown. The Lions didn’t find the win column until Week 13, then lost their on the No. 1 overall pick by season’s end. What’s clear after 2021, this Lions team needs an infusion of talent in the roster. Let’s look at some team needs for the Detroit Lions entering the 2022 season.
Lions Offense Lacked Bite
Detroit made a splash move last offseason sending away Matt Stafford in a trade with the Rams. Although the Lions landed a younger quarterback in the deal, the offense took a step back.
The Lions ranked 24th in scoring (19.1) and 22nd in total yards per game (322.4). Jared Goff led a passing attack that managed 211.4 passing yards per game, which finished 18th in the league. He improved as the season progressed, throwing 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his final five games. He finished the season 3-10-1 as the starter, completing over 67 percent of his passes for 3,245 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
One problem for Detroit heading into the 2022 offseason is Goff’s contract, which carries a $31 million cap figure next season that includes a $15.5 million roster bonus due in March that’s already guaranteed.
A positive from another Lions lost season was the emergence of a decent running game. Detroit finished 18th in rushing yards per game (110.9), their best ranking since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement from the season prior when they ranked 30th. The Lions were particularly good running on the road, averaging 131.4 rushing yards per game, which ranked 10th.
Another positive was the play of last season’s top pick Penei Sewell and the rest of the offensive line. Sewell looks like a potential star. Detroit posted the 12th lowest sack percentage (5.72 percent) and finished middle of the pack in pressures allowed and tackles for a loss allowed.
Detroit’s Defense Didn’t Get It Done
The Lions defense welcomed a new defensive coordinator and several new players, and that unfamiliarity showed through at times throughout the season. While their final numbers slot them in the bottom third of defensive units, the defense helped keep Detroit in most games. Aside from, you know, the blowouts.
Detroit’s defense ranked 29th in yards per game (379.7) and 28th in rushing yards per game (135.1). They were better against the pass, allowing 244.7 passing yards per game (23rd) but only allowed four 300-yard performances, despite facing some of the league’s top offenses. The Lions ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.5).
The Lions ranked 30th in sacks this season (30), 29th in pressure percentage (20.5), and 32nd in quarterback hits (29). The lack of pressure didn’t help a secondary spread thin thanks to injury.
Detroit Lions Draft Capital and Cap Space
For the 2022 NFL Draft, the Lions hold at least 10 selections, including two in the first round. Detroit also holds two picks in the third, sixth, and seventh rounds. All told, the Lions sport five selections among the first 100 picks for this April’s draft. Detroit doesn’t have a fourth-rounder.
Having the No. 2 overall selection means Lions team needs like Edge rusher could be addressed immediately. Whether Detroit trades down to gather additional assets may be an option, but this Lions draft needs to infuse the club with more talent.
According to OverTheCap.com, Detroit enters the offseason with $23.6 million in salary-cap space. That’s the 13th-most space in the league. Goff’s $30 million cap figure makes things problematic. It’ll be interesting to see if the team would be willing to cut ties with certain veterans in order to clear some cap.
Detroit Lions Team Needs
This Lions team needs more talent on the outside and on each level of the defense. Detroit sees some of its top contributors hitting free agency, but there’s no Lion that’s an absolute must-have. Among the team’s free agents are LB Alex Anzalone, DE Charles Harris, WRs Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds, and S Tracy Walker III.
1. Edge Rusher
It’s clear this Lions team needs a more consistent pass rush. Detroit finished last in QB knockdowns, second-to-last in sacks, and third-to-last in pressure percentage. So, it’s probably a good thing that there are two elite edge prospects on the board this year.
Detroit may very well keep Aidan Hutchinson in the state, considering the Michigan Wolverine posted 17.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss in essentially two seasons. The Lions draft could see them land Kayvon Thibodeaux, too, who racked up 19 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss in three seasons at Oregon.
2. Wide Receiver
Even though it seems like the Lions draft found a gem in their fourth-round pick last year, Amon-Ra St. Brown, this Lions team needs additional weapons on the outside. St. Brown finished with 90 receptions for 912 yards and six total touchdowns. His season ended with six-straight eight-catch games.
Questions at the position include how Quintez Cephus will look when he returns, and whether or not the team brings back Raymond or Reynolds. The answers to those questions shouldn’t keep the team from drafting another wideout this season.
While Goff is unlikely to shake free from Detroit, this Lions team needs to target his successor as soon as possible. Tim Boyle did little to impress in his time on the field last season. So, considering the Lions draft has two first-rounders on the board, why not take a flyer on one of the quarterback prospects?
The team could target someone like Liberty’s Malik Willis, who impressed at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, with the No. 29 overall selection. Using the late first-rounder on a QB, rather than the early second-rounder, provides Detroit the extra contract control of a fifth-year option.
Some of the other Detroit Lions team needs entering the 2022 offseason include linebacker, safety, and cornerback.