The Detroit Lions ended the 2022 season with a 9-8 record falling just short of playoffs due to a tiebreaker. The Lions started off poorly at 1-6, but despite the poor record, the offense clicked from the start putting up some big numbers. There were a couple of hiccups along the way, but for the most part, the offense drove the Lions' six-win improvement in 2022. The offense was among the league's elite as they ranked fifth in points per game and fourth in yards. Let's grade how each group performed in the breakout year.
Jared Goff bounced back in 2022 with his best season as a pro and ended the season on a great stretch. Over the offseason, Ben Johnson built the offense around Goff's skillset, which clearly paid dividends. Goff looked confident and in control of the offense allowing him to play at his best. Goff's accuracy was much better, and he aggressively pushed the ball down the field much more in 2022.
Goff's ability to take care of the ball was the most significant improvement of the year. He started off the season poorly with several interceptions including a few costly pick-sixes. After that, it was a completely different story. He threw zero interceptions over the last nine games for a Lions record.
Goff still is not a perfect quarterback. He did have some poor lulls without his major targets, and he still does not have the best arm strength on deep passes. Even with those flaws, Goff played like a top-ten quarterback in 2022 and proved he should be the starter going forward.
Report Card Grade: A-
Jamaal Williams was another player having a career year. After years of splitting time, Williams got his first chance to be a lead back with D'Andre Swift's injuries. Williams was not the most efficient, but he went over 1,000 yards on the season and broke Barry Sanders's record for single-season touchdowns. Williams doesn't have great shiftiness and receiving ability, but with his reliability and durability, he proved he can be a main back in a running back committee.
His partner in the committee, D'Andre Swift had a more up-and-down season. Swift started and ended the season on great notes. He was dynamic in the run-and-pass game avoiding tacklers and creating some huge plays. Unfortunately, Swift struggled with ankle and shoulder injuries that limited his effectiveness. While hurt, Swift did not look the same as he did not show the same decisiveness which greatly limited his impact. Swift is obviously incredibly talented, but he needs to show he can stay healthy before he can cement himself as an elite back.
Outside of the main duo, Justin Jackson was a nice find. A late addition to the team, he returned kicks well and make some nice plays stepping in for Swift. He could come back in the same role due to his value as a returner and pass blocker. This group is talented and had a pretty good season, but they did have some struggles with efficiency in the middle of the year. Hopefully, next year, Swift's health improves, and Williams returns as a free agent.
Report Card Grade: B+
Last year, the Lions had one of the worst receiving corps in the entire NFL, and they made a clear effort to improve over the offseason. The main holdover, Amon-Ra St. Brown continued his rise into star territory. In only his second year, he surpassed 100 catches and 1,000 yards becoming Goff's favorite target, especially on third downs. St. Brown was snubbed from the Pro Bowl, but already, he is one of the best slot receivers in the entire NFL.
To compliment St. Brown, the Lions relied on free agent DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds. Like Swift, Chark struggled with injuries leading to a slow start. Once he was healthy, Chark played really well as a deep threat with his speed and size. Opposite of him, Reynolds was his solid self. He wasn't spectacular, but he was reliable all year long.
The two outside receivers had good years, but Kalif Raymond ended the year as the second leading receiver. The unheralded, undersized receiver was overtaxed last year as the starting outside receiver. This year, he was in a smaller role where he could use quickness to his advantage. He shined in this role as he was reliable underneath to move the sticks and even make some huge catches for big plays.
The receiver group was definitely the most improved in the year. With a star in Amon-Ra St. Brown and several good players, they elevated Jared Goff's play and the rest of the offense. The best part is they should are adding another potential star in Jameson Williams. He had limited reps coming off an ACL, but every time he touched the ball it was electric. Pairing Williams with St. Brown could become one of the best duos in the NFL.
Report Card Grade: A
After the TJ Hockenson trade, the tight end group lacked the star power of the rest of the offense. The group consisting of undrafted Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra plus recovering rookie, James Mitchell found a way to make it work. None are the most dynamic receivers, but their willingness in the run game helped them open holes, particularly in the red zone. Despite losing the Pro Bowler, this group broke the Lions' record for touchdowns by tight ends in a year. The tight ends did not have the biggest roles, but this group did whatever was asked and did not miss a beat after losing their best player.
Report Card Grade: B
The offensive line took a big blow to start the season losing starting guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a back injury. Even without him, the rest of the offensive line did not miss a beat. Peneii Sewell had an All-Pro caliber season mauling people in the run game and looking much better in pass protection. The other bookend, Taylor Decker, had one of his best years in pass protection, only allowing one sack over the last 11 games.
In the middle, the group performed well despite losing Vaitai. Frank Ragnow battled a toe injury all season, but it did not slow him down one bit. The star center fought through it and earned another Pro Bowl nod. Next to him, Jonah Jackson is a road grater who excels at pulling to clear holes in the run game. Finally, right guard, the Lions had a few players step in due to injuries. Logan Stenberg and Kayode Awosike struggled in their reps, but Evan Brown was solid in pass protection when healthy.
This group was the heart and soul of this offense. They did a great job in pass protection all season long. They kept Goff upright and allowed him to play the best football of his career. In the run game, they were not as effective throughout the year, but they had some dominant performances on the ground. This unit is one of the best in football and should return its four main starters next year. If Vaitai returns or another starter is added at right guard, this group should be unstoppable in the run and pass game.
Report Card Grade: A
Unfortunately for the Lions, the secret is officially out on Ben Johnson. Dan Campbell and Johnson did a great job maximizing the talent on the offensive side of the ball, particularly Goff. The offense frequently used play action and other misdirection to create easy opportunities for Goff to get into a rhythm. Johnson's work over the year and a half has been incredibly impressive, turning this group into an elite offense.
The only issue is he has done such a good job that he is now receiving head coaching interviews. Hopefully, for the Lions, he stays with the team for at least one more year, so he can lead the offense to a division title and a playoff victory. Even if he doesn't, promoting Johnson was one of the best decisions Campbell has made as a head coach.
Report Card Grade: A+