The Detroit Lions were close to making their first playoff appearance since 2016. After an abysmal 1-6 start, Detroit proved they are no longer the Same Old Lions, and provided tangible hope for a fanbase in need.
So far, their offseason has gotten off to a great start. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson returned to the team after receiving interest as a potential head coaching candidate. Detroit’s offensive mastermind will continue his work with quarterback Jared Goff in 2023.
However, things certainly could have been better for Detroit in 2022. Their defense was horrid for the first half of the season. And even after their second-half improvement, the Lions never truly played well defensively.
With no further ado, here are three fixes the Lions need to make this offseason to make the NFL playoffs in 2023.
3. Improve run defense
Detroit struggled with the run defensively in 2022. A prime example of this is the Carolina Panthers game in Week 16 where the Lions gave up over 300 yards on the ground.
Detroit allowed the fourth-highest amount of rushing yards in the league. Furthermore, they gave up the third-highest yards per carry. And finally, they allowed the second-highest first down percentage on running plays.
The Lions need to be able to defend the run if they want any shot at having success in 2023. They will have their options, both in free agency and at the 2023 NFL Draft in late April.
In free agency, the Lions could target Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Jarran Reed. In the draft, Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee or Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson would be big pickups.
2. Deepen the secondary
Detroit’s defense wasn’t only bad against the run. They struggled with the pass as well. While cornerback Jeff Okudah and rookie safety Kerby Joseph played well, Detroit needs depth in the secondary.
Beyond Okudah and Joseph, Detroit didn’t have standouts in the secondary. In fact, their biggest standout from 2021, Amani Oruwariye, regressed hard in 2022.
The Lions need quality depth in the secondary. Detroit will get a big piece back when Tracy Walker III returns from injury. However, Detroit could still stand to add at safety and corner.
In free agency, Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner Jamel Dean could be of interest. The Lions could target a corner or safety in the draft as well.
Or maybe the Lions use their 18th overall selection and pull off a blockbuster trade for Los Angeles Rams star Jalen Ramsey. There are a number of ways the Lions can improve here. Look for general manager Brad Holmes to be active here.
1. Flesh out the offense
The Lions offense in 2022 was one of the league’s best. With Johnson back as offensive coordinator, there’s no reason to think Detroit will take a step back offensively in 2023.
However, their offense isn’t perfect. If the Lions want to succeed, they need to put the finishing touches on the offense to take their game to the next level.
There are two big areas that come to mind. First, the Lions need depth at their offensive guard position. Detroit’s starting guards are among the best in the league. However, there is a major dropoff in the talent level from their starting guards to their depth options.
Next, the Lions could use a more reliable tight end in the passing game. Detroit got serviceable play out of Brock Wright, James Mitchell, and Shane Zylstra last season. However, after the TJ Hockenson trade, there is an obvious need at the position.
The offensive guard depth can be found in the draft. Detroit could take a mid to late-round flyer on guys like Mississippi’s Nick Broeker or Oregon’s Andrew Forsyth.
A tight end, however, could be had in free agency. Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki is a free agent this spring and would fill the need for a reliable option at the position for the Lions.