Detroit Lions: Media is bullish as training camp is set to open

Members of this season’s Detroit Lions roster began reporting to the team’s training facility in Allen Park on Tuesday morning.

The Detroit Lions roster has begun to report to Allen Park for the testing that comes with a COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. Players were submitting to COVID-19 testing to begin preparation for training camp set to start August 12th though veterans and rookies are being separated.

While the Detroit Lions were busy going through NFL and team protocols in response to the virus, ESPN’s Dianna Russini and PFT’s Mike Florio and Chris Simms showed optimism earlier this week when offering their outlooks on the Detroit Lions upcoming season.

First, both Florio and Simms discussed the current state of the Lions extensively after ranking the team 27th in their pre-season power rankings for the 2020 season. The co-hosts were optimistic that Detroit could be a surprise team and possibly sneak into the playoffs.

“This is a team that’s intriguing to me,” said Simms before adding, “the offense I think has enough studs.”

Simms also lent his take on the defense, which is looking to improve upon their 2019 campaign where they were one of the NFL’s worst-ranked units.

“I think they’ve given themselves a chance this year, he said. “I don’t think it can be dominant, but between free agency and the draft, I think they’ve done enough to certainly be a better defense and better than what they were last year, which was pretty damn bad.”

Shortly after, Russini was feeling “dangerous” and “bold” while drinking her morning coffee around 10 AM EST.

That’s when she took to her Twitter account and predicted that “The Detroit Lions will win their division.”

Florio, Simms, and Russini were spot on with their analysis’ and predictions.

Although the Detroit Lions organization has been traditionally-morbid throughout the entire Super Bowl era, this team has all the makings of a “sleeper” playoff contender who will have the potential to shock the NFL as a whole, and the team’s rivals from the NFC Central Division this upcoming season.

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Matthew Stafford is healthy and returns to lead an offensive unit that surprised many people last season. At his disposal, the quarterback has a bevy of big-play weapons at the receiver position, including Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Marvin Hall.

Last season, Golladay led the NFL in touchdown receptions. Even after losing Stafford to a back injury at the midway point of the season, the former third-round pick still managed to finish the season with an NFL-leading 11 touchdown receptions.

Both Jones and Hall excelled in the vertical passing game and will look to make an even more significant impact this season. If tight-end T.J. Hockenson can live up to the hype that made him a first-round pick in 2019, the entire receiving corps will have the potential for massive upside.

In the draft, General Manager Bob Quinn addressed one of the team’s most significant needs by adding top-ranked running back prospect D’andre Swift of the Georgia Bulldogs. He’s a “big play waiting to happen” and has the potential to become the Lions’ first franchise back since Barry Sanders.

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It’s a sure bet that the offensive side-of-the-ball will be operating at a high-octane volume during Offensive Coordinator Darell Bevell’s second season at the helm. Scoring points and moving the chains will be the least of the team’s worries as long as their playmakers are able to stay healthy.

But what about the defense? Last season’s squad played in 11 games decided by eight points or less. Besides first-round cornerback Jeff Okudah, nobody seems to jump off the page.

To the untrained eye, it would be easy to presume again that Detroit would likely repeat their 2019 efforts, which saw the unit finish near the bottom of the league in every major defensive category, including 31st in total defense.

Furthermore, the franchise decided to part with key players from last season’s unit, such as longtime cornerback Darius Slay and defensive-tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison because of both cultural and schematic fits.

Now, a handful of Patriots cast-offs, including linebacker Jamies Collins Sr., defensive-tackle Danny Shelton, and safety Duron Haron have been brought in to help establish a new cultural identity and core under the once-considered “guru” Matt Patricia.

The players are familiar with his system from their days together when the coach was New England’s defensive coordinator before landing the job with the Lions.

Looking at both the team’s draft picks and free-agent acquisitions, the Lions’ additions aren’t sexy. Still, this year’s unit should be good enough to support the offense. Surely, the team will see a reduction in late leads being blown with the new talent that was acquired during the offseason.

Question marks surround both Chicago and Green Bay, both of whom didn’t seem to get much better during the offseason, and a Minnesota Vikings team in limbo with a potential hold-out by star running back Dalvin Cook.

Meanwhile, the Lions may quietly begin making noise and get off to another hot start in their division en-route to potentially winning their first division title since 1993, or at the very least garner a Wild Card berth in the 2020 postseason.

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These are not your “Same ‘ole Lions”.