4. Lions tight ends coach Tanner Engstrand
Hat-tip to Justin Rogers of The Detroit News, who answered a mailbag question regarding Johnson’s possible departure an in-house candidates to replace him this way.
"A: In terms of in-house candidates, a lot of people will jump to assistant head coach Duce Staley as a potential replacement, but one under-the-radar option I’d keep an eye on tight ends coach Tanner Engstrand. Joining the Lions as a low-level offensive assistant in 2020, he replaced Johnson as the team’s tight end coach, and has also worked hand-in-hand with the OC as Detroit’s pass-game coordinator this season. Additionally, Engstrand has experience as an offensive coordinator, just not at the NFL level. He served in that capacity both at the University of San Diego and with the D.C. Defenders in the XFL."
Engstrand would follow Johnson’s path from Lions’ tight ends coach (and passing game coordinator) to offensive coordinator. He also, as Rogers noted, has experience as an offensive coordinator at the college level and in the XFL. While that experience is obviously not the same as being an offensive coordinator in the NFL, Engstrand would not walk into a promotion to Lions offensive coordinator completely green to the finer points of calling plays, fully game-planning, etc.