ALLEN PARK, Mich. (WOOD) — Sunday the Detroit Lions started training camp for a highly-anticipated 2023 season.
With more expectations and plenty of new faces added to the roster in the offseason, here’s what to watch for as camp rolls along.
WHAT CAN DENZEL MIMS BRING TO THE WR ROOM?
On July 19, the Jets made a trade to the Lions for Denzel Mims, also giving Detroit a 2025 seventh-round pick while the Lions gave up a 2025 conditional sixth-round pick.
Mims was a second round pick in 2020 that did not work out the way New York wanted it to. The Lions believe there is more to offer from the three-year NFL player. In that span, he only accumulated 42 catches for 676 yards and has yet to score a touchdown. Injuries have also played a role in those numbers.
Quarterback Jared Goff believes from early impressions he is coming ready to work and thinks there could be a good connection with the Lions for Mims.
“He’s obviously a guy who has had a lot happen in his career,” Goff said. “We’re excited about him, I’m excited to work with him. He brings an element to our offense that we needed with his top-end speed.”
Mims has a chance to show off his skills and earn playing time with veteran wideout Marvin Jones starting camp on the Non-Football Injury or Illness list.
WHO WILL SHINE IN THE LIONS’ REVAMPED SECONDARY?
If there is one position throughout the entire Lions roster where depth and improved talent was added, it would be the secondary. While Jerry Jacobs and budding star Kirby Joseph return from a year ago and veteran leader Tracy Walker comes back from injury, the Lions also added three key pieces in the secondary from free agency and trades.
Emmanuel Mosley coming from San Francisco, had a lot of success while playing but is returning from an injury. He was not at day one of training camp due to private reasons but he will be easing his way back in, according to Dan Campbell. Former Denver DB Cam Sutton and Eagles DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson were both at day one and look to make a huge difference in the Lions’ pass defense.
However, Gardner-Johnson had a non-contact injury scare on Monday morning. Multiple sources have reported the injury appears minor, but it’s not something Detroit hopes to see again.
Defensive end Aiden Hutchinson claims the secondary seems to be improving and would love to have more time to get at the quarterback.
“If they’re a little more sticky, it gives me more time on the other end,” Hutchinson said. “It’s great for us as a defense.”
While the Lions defense did play better a season ago, they still ranked 29th in team defense and 30th in pass defense, leaving room for plenty of improvement.
CAN THE RUNNING BACK ROOM IMPROVE WITH NEW FACES?
If you watched the HBO Max series “Hard Knocks” last preseason featuring the Lions, you quickly learned Jamaal Williams was a huge part of the culture shift that has happened under coach Campbell.
On the field, he also broke Barry Sanders rushing touchdown record with 17 of them, while also rushing for 1,066 yards. The Lions have since moved on from not just Williams but his partner Deandre Swift, who the Lions drafted in 2020.
The Lions first made a splash by signing David Montgomery from the Bears to a 3-year, 18-million dollar deal. They also used a first round draft pick on Jahmyr Gibbs, a versatile running back from Alabama.
Montgomery is the more proven talent, with four years in the NFL and 3,609 yards under his belt, rushing for 1,070 yards as a high in 2020. That was all behind the Bears’ offensive line, which grades out much below Detroit’s top-5 group. You know Montgomery is going to give you tough yards and can catch the ball.
Gibbs is the more intriguing pick with explosive play making ability on the ground and through the air. After transferring from Georgia Tech, Gibbs rushed for 926 yards on 6.1 yards a carry. He also caught 44 balls for 444 yards, with 10 combined touchdowns.
Goff already has high praise for the rookie.
“He’s just a pro who has shown up and put his head down and went to work,” Goff said. “Similar to Aiden last year, don’t say a word and just do the right thing and you’ll impact the team one way or another. It’s been fun to see him come into a role on his own.”
WHICH ROOKIE WILL MAKE THE MOST STRIDES IN CAMP?
While Gibbs is the player who will arguably have the most eyes on him this season, the Lions have a couple other draft picks looking to make a difference right away.
Joining Malcom Rodriguez, Derrick Barnes and Alex Anzalaone in the linebacker room is first-round pick Jack Campbell out of Iowa. The Lions allowed plenty of rushing yards up the middle a season ago, and Campbell was drafted to help stop that problem.
In his final two seasons as a Hawkeye, Campbell combined for 265 tackles, 116 of them being solo. He also can defend the pass, snagging four interceptions during that same time span.
Sam LaPorta was taken as a tight end in the second round also from Iowa, who had over 600 yards receiving in his last two collegiate seasons. He looks to be another weapon for Ben Johnson’s offense in 2023. Brian Branch was the Lions’ other second round pick, a safety from Alabama who could get some early playing time.
Other draftees were quarterback from Tennessee Hendon Hooker, Western Kentucky defensive tackle Brodric Martin, offensive tackle Colby Sorsdal and wide receiver from North Carolina Antoine Green.