The name of the game and what has been the encompassing umbrella in Detroit has been progression, as a steady stream of improvement for a franchise consistently in a rebuilding stage has been long overdue.
2021 looks to be no different, as Matt Patricia and Matthew Stafford have made their way out of town in favor of newly minted general manager Brad Holmes, head coach Dan Campbell, and signal-caller Jared Goff, who’ll be in charge of potentially accelerating a rebuild for one of football’s weakest rosters. There's nowhere to go but up for the Lions, a team with just one playoff win since 1957. Yeah, that long.
There’s spot talent aplenty in Goff, who Campbell believes can get back on track within a career that’s fallen slightly off the tracks, running back D’Andre Swift, who’s expected to garner a bulk of the work in the Detroit backfield in his second season, Jeff Okudah, who if healthy has the chance to progress into one of the most talented cover corners in all of football, and of course, Penei Sewell, Detroit’s first-round selection in April who touts one of the elite skill sets of any tackle in the entire league.
Although the fundamental talent is there, whether Sewell thrives in his first season is a massive question due to the fact he’s been asked to jump to the right side of the line where he’ll start at right tackle to begin the year. It’s a confounding situation as Sewell, a dominant left tackle during his time at the University of Oregon, will now move into uncharted waters at the professional level, where his grace period could be drastically adjusted protecting Goff’s arm-side, as the switch from one side of the line to the other is an increasingly difficult task considering the talent bursting off the edge each and every Sunday.
Campbell knows more than us, but if I just took the draft’s best tackle prospect No. 7 overall, I wouldn’t make it any more difficult than it had to be to get him up to speed, and it would be Taylor Decker making the move, not Sewell, to the right side of the line.
With absolutely zero expectations within a division as top-heavy as any, the Lions, again, with fresh faces and opinions anew upstairs, have to show a sliver of promise if they have any chance of maneuvering their way to .500 ball, let alone the playoffs. Under center is a great way to start, as Goff will look to revive a once-promising career while filling the shoes of Stafford.
The fundamental talent is there, as his frame, arm arrogance, and ability to place the ball a bucket from anywhere outside the hashes offer Campbell an outstanding talent to work with and improve upon despite limited boundary athletes present. At just 26 years old, Goff hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling as an NFL signal-caller. With time, and the necessary mentorship, I have only positive ambitions for the two-time Pro Bowler whose leash will stretch around Ford Field. Mistakes will happen, as will his flashes of brilliance, but for anyone to think Goff is past his prime because he failed to mesh with Sean McVay is simply uninformed.
A successful campaign is one where the bar remains set at an all-time low. With a new general manager, head coach, and quarterback, if the Lions end up picking No. 1 overall next spring, no one will bat an eyelash. But for a team in desperate need of a spark following the aforementioned changes that have taken place, a handful of wins with progression from Goff would result in a more than optimal season. Faced with the league’s sixth-toughest schedule, everything has become an eye test in Detroit, as Holmes and Campbell attempt to build their roster into NFC North contenders in the near future.
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