This is the time of year for hope and optimism regarding the Detroit Lions, no doubt. But the blue Kool-Aid is flowing through the rest of the country, not just around these parts ahead of the season.
The Detroit Lions winning more than six games in 2022 was July’s most popular NFL bet at Caesars Sportsbook. And if that weren’t enough, head coach Dan Campbell has pulled the most money on bets to win coach of the year while running back D’Andre Swift has done the same when it comes to leading the league in rushing yards.
Detroit went 3-13-1 in Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes’ first season running the show. Campbell impressed after taking over the offense, not to mention getting a badly-depleted roster to fight until it was all said and done. Holmes then revamped the team’s receiver room through free agency and the top of the draft, not to mention using six of his eight picks on the defensive side of the ball.
This news comes after Peter King opened the week by featuring the Lions in his Football Morning in America in a favorable light.
“The Lions have won one playoff game in the last 60 years — two less than the Bengals won last January — and we all know that the players being cool with the general manager won’t equate to wins,” King wrote in his column. “But it says something to me that players on a team with 11 wins in the last three years might actually like where they are. This team has some momentum after a competitive end to 2021; Detroit was 3-3 after Dec. 1. I’ll be surprised if they’re not close to .500 this year. Close, to me, is seven or eight wins.”
There is reason to think there should be improvements and growth on both sides of the ball. Campbell and new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson are back running the offense, and while it’s unclear who will call plays, those two had the passing attack humming down the stretch.
Campbell and Johnson will also have more toys to play with, adding receivers Jameson Williams and DJ Chark to join blossoming star Amon-Ra St. Brown. T.J. Hockenson and Swift are healthy again, and the Lions are looking forward to seeing their enviable projected starting offensive line finally take the field together.
There remain some questions on the defensive side of the ball, though. The Lions are tweaking their system to fit their young talent better. They’ll switch to more four-person fronts this year, with a more attacking mentality. Holmes drafted Aidan Hutchinson at the top of the draft, then grabbed edge defender Josh Paschal, linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, versatile defender James Houston, cornerback Chase Lucas and safety Kerby Joseph before it was over.
Second-year interior defender Alim McNeill is getting some love as a potential breakout performer. The Lions also hope a healthy and recharged Levi Onwuzurike will show flashes of what made him a second-round pick in their new defense.
“I just think I’ve got guys like Rich Strike. Every time we hear the S-O-L, same old Lions, and all the stuff, I think it fuels our fire,” Campbell told King. “We love it. I think that’s how we all feel. That’s how we all talk. That’s how we all think. There’s nothing fake about it.”