In a results-oriented game, keeping eyes up toward the horizon has remained a constant in Detroit. During a never-ending rebuild that usually welcomes fresh faces aplenty in both the front office and in between the hashes, revamping the Lions’ roster has been a yearly project since the turn of the millennium.
For a franchise vacant of a playoff win in 31 seasons, it’s been a strenuous, elongated trek of ups and downs for the Lions. The basement occupants of the NFC North for quite some time, Lions faithful have had little to rally around outside of Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, and Matthew Stafford since the Clinton administration was in office in the early 1990s. While that trio of playmakers provided flashes in the pan of seasonal success and trips to the postseason, the Lions’ influx of youth-infused talent this fall has seen them quickly rise within a crowded NFC playoff picture.
Behind a resounding voice in head coach Dan Campbell that can coach with the best the league has to offer, the Lions are 5-1 in the last month and a half of football. A unit headed by offensive coordinator Ben Johnson whose engineering of the offense has made things simple yet explosive for signal-caller Jared Goff, Detroit is now 6-7 and right in the thick of things at the back end of the NFC.
Led by an impressive front five headlined by center Frank Ragnow and right tackle Penei Sewell, the foundation has been laid for production. Behind a group that ranks in the top five in sacks allowed this fall, the ability to keep Goff upright and off the turf has allowed the former No. 1 overall pick to set his feet and pepper his deep arsenal of weapons that has only improved in the last two weeks: Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark, the arrival of the sparkling new Ferrari in Jameson Williams. Detroit has scored 30 or more points in four of its last five, took down the now 10-3 Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and has one of the easiest remaining schedules on the docket to close out the campaign.
Let’s take a look at the rookie wide receiver for a moment.
Jameson Williams, welcome to the NFL👀🔥
First career catch = first career TD❗️pic.twitter.com/RgCHubz9oe
— The Draft Network (@TheDraftNetwork) December 11, 2022
This was a long-welcomed first touchdown reception for Williams. His speed provides a jolt to the perimeter Goff simply hasn’t had in years past. His arrival will also expand defenses, forcing the opposing unit to cover each blade of grass at every level. No longer can defenses key in solely on St. Brown, as in a blink of an eye Williams can blow past the corner on his way to paydirt.
The Lions are in the midst of constant improvement. While it looked like there was a brick wall in front of the end zone at points in October when the Lions scored just six points combined against the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys, Johnson has continued to tailor his game plan to each athlete’s skill set and the Lions have, in return, become one of the top offenses in football.
While a laundry list of concerns remain surrounding Goff and his immediate future under Campbell down the line, for now, Detroit is playing good ball and building the right way. A team that has earned its way to 6-7 and one that is knocking on the door of a playoff spot, don’t rule out the Lions when the playoff puzzle settles into place.