ALLEN PARK, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s impossible to ignore the hype that has been building around the 2023 Detroit Lions season.
After a 9-8 finish a season ago, their first winning season since 2017, the Lions are being nationally recognized as a favorite to win the NFC North Division and maybe even make a run in the playoffs.
While the growing Lions organization is enjoying the hype, members of the team and coaching staff are just focused on preparing, as day one of training camp kicked off Sunday morning.
Players say they haven’t even scratched the surface of where they want to be.
“This so-called ‘hype train’, I don’t know, I think it’s funny to me,” said quarterback Jared Goff. “You go nine and eight, don’t make the playoffs and all of a sudden you’re considered a favorite. Of course, we have good players and coaches and all of that’s great … We haven’t done anything yet, we have a lot of work to do.”
Ask any of the coaches and players and they’ll deliver the same message, no matter how it’s worded. While a lot of the national predictions are based on the talent the Lions have added and brought back, the team still hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016.
Head coach Dan Campbell, who is entering his third season and improved by six wins last season from year one, believes his team can’t achieve their goals unless they continue to make progress every day.
“I think that’s the thing that’s always going to worry you as coaches,” Campbell said. “The hype train — and this thing has just taken off and it’s out of control right now — as long as we stay focused on the job at hand and we put the work in, we will get where we want to be.”
There is plenty of work to be done for Detroit with a 13-win Viking team winning the division last season and Green Bay winning it many years prior. Not to mention the Bears also added weapons to their offense and look to surprise the NFL this season.
That said, the Lions had a 5-1 record against their NFC North foes in 2022. To earn their first divisional crown in 31 years, they’ll need to keep up with that stat.
Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has been with Detroit for the past three seasons, when Campbell started his tenure in Detroit. While there is a different feeling in the locker room now, the California native still wants to see more from this team.
“I think right now, we’re handling the expectations pretty well,” St. Brown said. “Coming in as a rookie, there wasn’t really any hype around the Lions. I’m happy to have been here through it all. This team, the coaches and this organization is excited for the future. But we still have to put the work in, we won’t get anywhere without putting the work in.”
While adding key assets on offense in the draft — like running back Jahmyr Gibbs and tight end Sam LaPorta — add to an already powerful offense from a season ago, what the Lions added defensively is already proving to make a difference in camp.
Free agent defensive backs C.J. Gardner-Johnson from Philadelphia and Cam Sutton from Denver have added depth and experience to the secondary. Emmanuel Mosley is also expected to help as a free agent signing from San Francisco, but was not attendant for training camp’s first day. Tracy Walker is also returning from injury to join Jerry Jacobs and Kirby Joseph as returning players.
The Lions added Jack Campbell to the linebacker room as a first round draft pick. Malcom Rodriguez, Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes are also returning.
With all of the players added from the draft, trades and free agency, the Lions have improved as a team from a talent standpoint, creating more outside noise.
But the message inside the walls of Allen Park remains the same at Lions training camp: keep working because they haven’t proven anything yet.
“It’s impossible for us not to see it,” defensive end Aiden Hutchinson said. “We’ve got the TVs on in (the locker room) and it kind of just pops up. I think for our guys, it would be smart not to pay attention to it. I think we’re doing a good job of continuing to build on last year to get where we want to be.”