JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com Senior Writer John Oehser will speak weekly during the 2022 regular season with a writer or member of the media covering the Jaguars opponent.
Senior Writer and Detroit Lions Insider Tim Twentyman talks about the Lions game against the Jaguars at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Question: The Lions are 4-7 with a 28-25 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Buffalo Bills, their only loss last month. What is the state of the Lions entering Sunday?
Answer: They feel good. They’re 3-1 the last four games and you look at Thanksgiving: they led Buffalo all the way. They were neck and neck and this is a team that should be contesting the Super Bowl. They’ve figured some things out defensively, and some of their young players are stepping up and making plays. That’s been the biggest catalyst for them over the past month. They play much better defensively.
Q: The Lions rank eighth in the NFL in total yards and eighth in points. Where are they offensively.
A: They are finally healthy offensively. This is one of the most important things. [Running back] D’Andre Swift hadn’t been right since injuring his shoulder in Week 3. Now he’s starting to get back to being himself. Their top three receivers at the start of the season — DJ Chark Jr., Josh Reynolds and Amon-Ra St. Brown — were on the court together for the first time on Thanksgiving since Week 3. Chark missed six games due to an ankle injury. They are somehow healthy at the right time.
Q: Jared Goff is in his second season as a starting quarterback for the Lions. Evaluate his game this season.
A: It has been consistent throughout the year; he was solid. He gave them a chance to win every game they played this year, except for the stinking one in New England [in Week 5] when they lost 29-0. All other matches have been a one-score-one-chance match. That’s all you can ask of your quarterback with arguably one of the youngest teams in the NFL; they’re still finding a way to get in games, win some of those games, and join in the conversation in the NFC as the calendar shifts into December. The Lions have done a good job adapting this offense to what Jared does well. When Jared was at his best with the Los Angeles Rams, when he was a Pro Bowl quarterback, they had a really good offensive line, they could run the football and Jared was really good at playing outside guns . That’s what the Lions tried to replicate here. They have one of the best offensive lines in football. They’re Top 10 in the league and now he’s starting to get all his away guns. If you protect Jared Goff, he can throw it. He was the No. 1 pick [in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams] for a reason.
A: They are young and they are playing better. [Rookie defensive end] Aidan Hutchinson has five and a half sacks and two interceptions. [Rookie Safety] Kerby Joseph, a third-round pick, has three interceptions; he and Hutchinson have combined for six takeaways during their recent three-game winning streak, so you’re starting to get plays from the young guys who you hope are your core moving forward. They’ve suffered injuries on defense and they still have linebacker issues to deal with, but they’re starting to get input from some of their younger players. They are starting to push football further away. It was one thing that was missing, but now they are taking advantage of the opportunities and that takeaway has helped them win a few games lately.
Q: When Lions are good, what is their identity?
A: When they’re good, they’re explosive on offense and they’ll pop you on defense. That’s head coach Dan Campbell’s mantra – this courage, this tenacity. When the Lions play well, they make the football sink down your throat. They demand their will on offense with the offensive line. Then they are still able to hit you deep with some of the weapons they have outside. Defensively they are tough and physical and they will win the football. When the Lions played their best football, it was those elements.
Q: What is success for this team?
A: You took over an untalented team and won three games last season in your first season. Can you be in that graph, the playoff graph, the chase graph? Can you be in there in December in your second season? That would be huge – not just to double your winnings total, but to be in the conversation and play meaningful games come December. It would be a real progression in Year 2 for Dan Campbell, [General Manager] Brad Holmes and this franchise.