As good as the Detroit Lions offense was last year, Ben Johnson wants to raise the bar for 2023.
Other than a few games last season, the Detroit Lions offense was quite good. That didn't always mean putting up a big point total. But good balance and some well-placed creativity quickly advanced offensive coordinator Ben Johnson in the conversation to become a head coach.
But rather than take a head coaching job he possibly didn't really want, Johnson decided to stay in Detroit for at least one more year. Getting what was apparently a healthy raise certainly helped that decision.
Last season, to put numbers on it, the Lions finished fourth in yards per game and fifth in scoring while committing the fewest turnovers in the NFL. They also had the franchise's best yards per-carry average on the ground in a long time.
But, as could be expected, Johnson is not resting on any laurels moving toward the 2023 season.
Ben Johnson believes the Detroit Lions offense can do more in 2023
Speaking at OTAs on Thursday, with a picture of defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn duck-taped to his shirt as he channeled Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes, Johnson raised the bar for the Lions' offense in 2023.
"So, I personally expect a huge step forward in terms of the growth, the knowledge base of our players, the experience they have under their belts," Johnson said. "That's why the emphasis has been on the basics. Let's get really good at the fundamentals, because that's what helped us win games at the end of last year. The fact that we led the league in ball security — we didn't turn the ball over in the second half of the season — that equated to wins for us. I think just the recognition of the little things all adding up and paying big dividends as an offense, that's really the point.""
The Lions were eye-openingly creative in some big spots last year (see pass to Penei Sewell against the Vikings, hook-and lateral against the Packers in Week 18). Johnson won't be moving away from those things.
"We will still push the envelope," Johnson said. "We'll still be innovative and creative on offense, don't get me wrong, but I just came away (from the self-scout) saying, 'Shoot, man, we left a lot of meat on the bone in a lot of ways.'""
If Johnson can get another good season out of Jared Goff, and the Lions' offense is as good as (or even better than) it was last year this year, he will be a prominent head coaching candidate again after the season. His own head coaching resume is surely not his focus, but it's a natural reality of the situation if Detroit's offense remains one of the best in the league in 2023.