DETROIT — The Detroit Lions open the 2022 regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 11 at Ford Field.
The Lions are trying to rebuild under coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes, both in their second year. Although there’s certainly competition among the position units, the Lions have committed to running it back with their core from last season: quarterback Jared Goff, running back D’Andre Swift, tight end T.J. Hockenson, receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and safety Tracy Walker. They’ve also added young talent such as No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson at defensive end.
The receiving corps was one of the weak spots last season, but they’ve beefed up the talent at the position. A couple of interesting names to pay attention to during training camp will be the battle between Trinity Benson and Quintez Cephus for a spot at receiver.
QUARTERBACK (3): Jared Goff, David Blough, Tim Boyle
It’s clear as day Jared Goff is the guy for the Lions. When they didn’t go after a quarterback in the draft that was reassurance the team is committed to him as the starter. The biggest question during training camp will be who can step as QB2, with backups Blough and Boyle looking to prove themselves yet again.
RUNNING BACK (4): D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Jason Cabinda (FB)
Both Swift and Williams are pretty much locks as running backs after splitting touches last season with their dual-threat abilities. However, Swift has a history of groin and shoulder injuries so they’ll have to keep solid backup options on deck. Reynolds has proven that he can step up, if necessary, like last season when he went from the practice squad to running for nearly 200 yards in back-to-back games.
WIDE RECEIVER (6): DJ Chark Jr., Josh Reynolds, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, Quintez Cephus, Kalif Raymond
The receiving corps was often criticized last season for the lack of talent. They caught 24.5% of their tight-window targets last season per NFL Next Gen Stats, which was the third-worst in the NFL. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case entering this season, notably with the addition of Chark, but everyone is also anticipating a big leap for St. Brown in Year 2. Campbell has praised Trinity Benson for his hard work this offseason, but Quintez Cephus has proven he’s capable of making big plays in games and will likely get the nod.
TIGHT END (3): T.J. Hockenson, Devin Funchess, James Mitchell
There isn’t much competition at this spot with Hockenson returning as one of the faces of the franchise. Detroit did pull a surprise move by moving Devin Funchess, a former receiver, over to tight end, which could add additional playmaking to the offense. The Lions have to have depth in this role with Mitchell also coming off an ACL injury.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Penei Sewell, Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Evan Brown, Matt Nelson, Tommy Kraemer, Dan Skipper
Detroit’s offensive line is expected to be the bright spot of the roster. There’s no surprise with any of these names. Sewell, the seventh pick in the 2021 draft, is projected to take a big leap this season after a promising rookie campaign. He’s surrounded by a ton of veterans to help him along the way, such as Decker and Ragnow. Now, the unit will have to live up to the early hype.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Aidan Hutchinson, Michael Brockers, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara, Charles Harris, Alim McNeill, Levi Onwuzurike, James Houston, Josh Paschal
The Lions have finished in the bottom-five in pressure percentage in each of the past six seasons. They also finished 29th in pressure percentage and 30th in sacks last season, per ESPN Stats & Information. So, obviously, that’s a problem. By adding Hutchinson, the Lions have committed to improving on the edge.
LINEBACKER (5): Austin Bryant, Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Jarrad Davis, Malcolm Rodriguez
The Lions allowed 1,070 rush yards after first contact last season, which was the second-highest total by any team in the past 10 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Information. Linebacker coach Kelvin Sheppard will be on his group to try and push guys to improve in that area, with Anzalone and Barnes looking to be leaders of the unit.
CORNERBACK (6): Jeff Okudah, Jerry Jacobs, Amani Oruwariye, Mike Hughes, Ifeatu Melifonwu, AJ Parker
All eyes will be on former No. 3 overall pick Okudah as he looks to bounce back from a season-ending Achilles injury he suffered last season. There are still lots of questions about who he is as a player on the NFL level, and the Lions staff is remaining patient during his rehab process while also pushing other guys like Jacobs and Oruwariye to improve.
SAFETY (5): Tracy Walker, Kerby Joseph, DeShon Elliott, Will Harris, C.J. Moore
Walker is committed to being the top safety on the roster, which is why he was re-signed this offseason to a three-year deal worth $25 million. The Lions secondary will need help from others at safety, too. The Lions are the only team to allow 100 passing touchdowns over the past three seasons combined (102). They’ve also intercepted 25 passes during that time, tied for fewest with the Raiders, per ESPN Stats & Information research.
SPECIALISTS (3): Scott Daly, Jack Fox, Austin Seibert
Fox was named a Pro Bowler at punter in 2020, in addition to being named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month during September 2020. He is looking to headline this group with Daly at long snapper and Seibert at kicker.