Green Bay Packers: Previewing the 2021 Detroit Lions

Sep 20, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to throw a pass in front of Detroit Lions linebacker Reggie Ragland (59) during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to throw a pass in front of Detroit Lions linebacker Reggie Ragland (59) during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Rounding out our preview of the Green Bay Packers NFC North opponents, we will be taking a closer look at the Detroit Lions today.

If you missed  the Chicago or Minnesota season previews, you can find the Bears article here, and the Vikings article here.

The Detroit Lions finished the 2020 season 5-11, including a pair of a losses to the Green Bay Packers, and find themselves with a number of new faces in the building.

Most notably, they have a new head coach in Dan Campbell, a new GM in Brad Holmes, and traded long-time starting quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in return for Jared Goff and a few draft picks.

Offensively, the 2020 Lions ranked 16th by DVOA— a metric that measures team success play by play and takes into account several variables such as the down, distance, and the opponent — and they finished 20th in average points per game scored.

On defense, however, is where the Lions would really struggle, ranking 32nd in both DVOA and points per game allowed with 32.4.

But that was last year, and as I said, this team has undergone a number of changes, so let’s take a look ahead to this season.

To help preview the Lions, Bob Heyrman of Detroit Jock City — where they cover anything and everything going on with Detroit sports — was kind enough to answer five of my questions to help provide us with some insight on the Detroit offseason and what expectations are this season.

Were there any significant losses from the roster this offseason?

The Detroit Lions are in the midst of a complete overhaul from their front office all the way down to their roster.  The most obvious change is at quarterback after newly appointed general manager Brad Holmes sent the face of the franchise, Matthew Stafford, to the Los Angeles Rams for a pair of future first-round picks and a third-round choice from the 2021 NFL Draft along with Jared Goff.

Goff is expected to be a bridge quarterback this season and perhaps next for the organization as they hope to target their next franchise signal-caller in the 2022 NFL Draft.  The other big change comes at the wide receiver position.  Aside from second-year pass-catcher Quintez Cephus, the entire group has changed, and not in a good way.

Detroit has moved on from Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola, replacing that talented group with a few questionable pieces.  Detroit will deploy Tyrell Williams, Tom Kennedy, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Trinity Benson, and the aforementioned Quntez Cephus.

Were there any significant additions?

Detroit’s key additions did come way of the 2021 NFL Draft, aside from veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers and quarterback Jared Goff.  Detroit shored up their offensive line by drafting the widely talented Penei Sewell.

Sewell sat out last season due to the coronavirus pandemic and has struggled to acclimate to the NFL level.  It’s a bit alarming to see the seventh overall pick in the draft not be able to dominate right away. Still, the organization is starting Sewell at right tackle instead of his natural left tackle position, with Taylor Decker already anchoring the left side.

The Detroit Lions also made a conscious effort to beef up their defensive line by using a pair of premium draft picks on defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill.  Detroit also drafted linebacker Derrick Barnes and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in the middle rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft; both are expected to have a significant role in 2021.

What are the early impressions of Dan Campbell?

The jury is still out on Dan Campbell.  I do admire his honesty, and he seems to understand this will be a work in progress.  Former general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia basically gut this franchise and left the cupboards bare.

Campbell appears to be a ‘players’ coach who is the polar opposite of the previous regime.  Hopefully, Detroit can find a way to be a tough out all season long, but the primary focus is expected to be on player development rather than wins and losses.

What is a strength and a weakness of this team?

This team won’t have many strengths.  It’s bleak, to say the least, but punter Jack Fox is one of the best in the business, and we are expected to see a lot of him.

Detroit will pride themselves on trying to run the football behind what should be a top-10 offensive line, but with limited playmakers on offense aside from running back D’Andre Swift and tight end T.J. Hockenson it will be tough sledding.

Detroit’s defense is still presumed to struggle in 2021, but with the additions upfront, perhaps they will perform better than expected.

What are expectations this season for the Lions?

I don’t expect Detroit to win more than four or five games in 2021.  As I said, it’s a work in progress, plus the Lions start the season with an exceptionally tough schedule.  Detroit opens at home against the San Francisco 49ers, followed by a trip to Lambeau to take on the Packers and then a date with Baltimore.