2021 NFC North preview: How do the Detroit Lions stack up?
The Detroit Lions Offense
If you slept from January through now, you may not have known that gone is long-time quarterback Matthew Stafford and that former Rams signal-caller Jared Goff has taken his place. This re-tool is a true reboot for the offense which hasn’t had a change under center since 2009. Replacing Stafford is a tall task but the Lions front office is busy trying to stock their offense to run the ball better and not ask Goff to win games by himself.
The biggest problem on both sides of the ball is top-end talent, which former general manager Bob Quinn never found any of. He brought in some good players, Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Kenny Golladay, and T.J. Hockenson were his best picks.
Both Ragnow and Hockenson could be considered near the top of their positions but tight ends and centers don’t win many games by themselves. The fact that every other divisional opponent has at least two doesn’t bode well, even if you consider that players are traditionally undervalued when playing in the Motor City.
Goff, unlike the other quarterbacks in the division, isn’t looking over his shoulder but is battling Stafford’s legacy in a meaningful way. How he handles the bevy of No. 9 references when asked about his performance, will dictate much of whatever success he enjoys while in Detroit.
Two men are battling it out for backup duties, holdover David Blough, and former Packers backup Tim Boyle. Blough is reported to have outplayed his teammate in minicamps but neither is a threat to Goff’s position on the team. While Goff is probably a middle-of-the-pack starter, the backup situation isn’t very good.
Of course, we’ve been hearing the line about “running the ball better to help the quarterback” for years as Detroit Lions fans, there’s nothing new there. The bringing in of OC Lynn, whose offense is predicated largely on the use of two running backs and lots of zone-blocking, the signing of free-agent running back Jamaal Williams, and the drafting of Oregon tackle Penei Sewell in the first round of the NFL draft means that Holmes isn’t just talking about fixing run-game problems.
He’s redistributed money that could’ve gone to wide receivers or other free agent skilled players back into the trenches on defense to help on the other side of the ball, too. It comes off as a plan that makes sense for who they have on the roster.
Along with Stafford moving to Los Angeles, the wide receiver corps has lost former starters Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Jr., and slot receiver Danny Amendola. In their place are Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, holdover second-year man Quintez Cephus, and versatile rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown as the principal members. The biggest target for 2021 should be tight end T.J. Hockenson who may be in line for an All-Pro type of season.
It’s a fast corps of receivers but without a ton of production. Williams has the lone 1,000-yard campaign of the wideouts. Victor Bolden, Geronimo Allison, Kalif Raymond, Damion Ratley, Chad Hansen, and rookie Sage Surratt will all battle for roster spots. Admittedly, this group is the least talented in the division.
Perriman, trying to reproduce his father’s success as a Lions player, is out to disprove the narrative that he isn’t a starter. Where better than the Detroit Lions to face your battle versus everybody?
Don’t sleep on bringing back Darren Fells as the complimentary tight end after releasing Jesse James this offseason. Alize Mack and Charlie Taumoepeau are the primary backup candidates behind Fells and could fill the move tight end role or possibly slot as fullback or H-back options, too.