What To Look For As The Detroit Lions Open Camp
Your gridiron heroes, the Detroit Lions open training camp in Allen Park on July 19th when the rookies (minus unsigned 3rd round draft pick Brian Branch) report. The rest of the team reports on July 22nd.
And there has never been this kind of optimism surrounding the Detroit Lions in recent years, if ever.
The team is coming off a 9-8 season, but with eight victories in their last 10 contests. And they just missed the playoffs in the NFC on a tiebreaker with the Seattle Seahawks.
The Lions are a reported $20 million or so UNDER the salary cap heading into camp. And depending on who makes the Opening Day 53-man roster, it could be more than that. That could come in handy if they get massive injuries and need to sign guys to replace the injured ones.
So, what are other things to look for as the team heads to Allen Park?
CAN JARED GOFF STAY HEALTHY AND KEEP THE GOOD PLAY GOING?
For his and the team's sake, he better. If he's hurt and misses significant time, you're left with veteran backup Nate Sudfeld and rookie Hendon Hooker, Not good. And if he regresses from last year, he could find himself out of the organization in March. He carries a $31.65 cap number for 2024, the last year of his deal. But if he is cut or traded, the Lions save more than $25 million on the '24 cap.
But if he does stay healthy and plays like he did in the second half of the season, he could lead the team to their first division title since 1993. That gets them a home playoff game and a chance to advance to the NFC title game for the first time since 1991...and Goff would be in line to cash in with a big contract extension with the club (Goff turns 29 in October).
WILL THE DEFENSE BE AS GOOD AS LAST YEAR (IN THE 2ND HALF OF THE SEASON)?
If they want to go to the playoffs, they need to. They were awful in the first half of the year, but got better throughout the season. Second-year men Aidan Hutchinson (pictured above) and Kerby Joseph are building blocks for now and the future. Re-signing linebacker Alex Anzalone was big, as is the return of safety Tracy Walker from an Achilles injury. They need another pass-rusher, but they are way ahead of where they were last year at this time.
WILL THE RUNNING GAME BE AS GOOD, IF NOT BETTER?
The top two running backs from last year (D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams) are gone. And they've been replaced by free agent signing David Montgomery and 1st round draft pick Jahmyr Gibbs. The didn't sign/draft these guys to be worse than last year. So they better be.
WILL DAN CAMPBELL BECOME A BETTER GAME COACH?
Campbell personally lost the first Minnesota game with poor play calling and poor in-game decisions. He also lost the Buffalo game on Thanksgiving Day with poor coaching in the 4th quarter. And he was completely outcoached by Carolina Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks in Week 15 on Christmas Eve. He needs to improve greatly in that area.
But the players seem to respond to him and his style of coaching. Campbell seems to be like Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in that regard. Tomlin (a likely Hall of Fame coach) isn't the greatest in-game coach in the world, but his players run through a wall for him. That says a lot about them in a positive sense.