As the Detroit Lions prepare to lock horns with the Kansas City Chiefs in a much-anticipated Thursday Night Football showdown, fans are looking forward to the main storylines that will define the 2023 season. Here are four pivotal developments to watch, which could shape the Lions’ pathway to success this season.
Jared Goff’s Coaching Consistency
For Lions quarterback Jared Goff, the 2023 season offers a promising first: the same offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach two years in a row. This continuity with OC Ben Johnson and QB Coach Mark Brunell hints at a potential upscale in Goff’s performance, building upon last year’s impressive statistics. If that happens and the Lions end up with 11 or more wins, Could Goff work his way into the MVP conversation?
In the previous season, Goff showcased remarkable stats with a 65.1% completion rate, amassing 4,438 yards and 29 touchdowns. This season, some experts forecast even more impressive figures – anticipating at least 4,750 yards and 35 touchdowns. “I tell Goff, man, he’s very much a piece of the puzzle here… now cut it loose. Play football,” articulated Lions head coach Dan Campbell, emphasizing the trust placed in the quarterback’s capability to spearhead the team’s offense.
New Look Defense: A Revamped Secondary
The Detroit Lions are unleashing a transformed defense, aiming to obliterate the inconsistencies that marred their 2022 season. The Lions front office spearheaded significant changes, especially bolstering the secondary through shrewd acquisitions in the free agency period, bringing in CJ Gardner-Johnson, Cam Sutton, and Emmanuel Moseley.
Brian Duker, Lions’ defensive backs coach, couldn’t contain his excitement about the new additions, stating, “He is the battery for the whole defense out there,” praising Gardner-Johnson’s infectious energy that permeates the entire defense.
Moreover, the secondary promises more depth with Tracy Walker returning from injury and the emergence of rookie Brian Branch. The reshuffled setup seeks to provide more formidable last-line of defense. It also aims at providing more time for the young, developing defensive line to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn assures fans of a strategic rotation that will bring out the best in this newly assembled defense, hinting at different packages to incorporate the talents effectively. He shared, “I’m not going to tell you when, but they’re going to play because they’re good enough to play.”
New Look Backfield: Lions Forge a Robust Offensive Front
The Lions’ backfield undergoes a transformation this season, bidding farewell to running backs Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift. Stepping up to fill their shoes are dynamic duo David Montgomery, acquired from the Chicago Bears, and rookie weapon Jahmyr Gibbs. Their complementary playing styles have stirred excitement within the team and fanbase alike.
Lions’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson expressed optimism ahead of the Kansas City face-off, emphasizing the complementary strengths of Gibbs and Montgomery. “I’m really excited to see what they can do out on the field here this week, but we’re going to use them all over the place,” Johnson noted, highlighting the diverse skill sets the duo brings to the table.
The optimism is further buoyed by the continuity in the offensive line, which Johnson affectionately described as “my blankey.” An fully healthy offensive line stands as a comforting reassurance, hinting at another potential top-tier performance in the rushing department this season.
Rookie Expectations: Fresh Faces with Promises
The Lions have vested significant expectations in their rookies, with Jahmyr Gibbs, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, and Brian Branch all slated for considerable playing time this season. Each of these rookies has showcased promising signs of blending seamlessly with the team’s existing framework.
Gibbs’ versatility promises to add a new dimension to the offense. Meanwhile, LaPorta has shown a harmonious synergy with Jared Goff and is fast emerging as a reliable TE1. LaPorta’s tight end skills, honed during camp, seem ready for the big leagues. On the defensive front, Campbell is exhibiting early signs of being an elite run stopper. He has showcased remarkable agility and instincts that surpass most rookie expectations.
The spotlight, however, shines brightly on Brian Branch. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn held no reservations in his expectations on the young star’s shoulders. He expects Branch “to be a damn good player… there’s a reason why we had him graded that high.” Executive VP and General Manager Brad Holmes echoed the high expectations surrounding Branch, stating, “He’s an outstanding tackler. He has elite instincts and… he can do a lot of things.”
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK