The Detroit Lions are coming off an auspicious 9-8 season, and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson sees 2022 as just the beginning for his group.
Johnson explained why he expects Detroit’s offense to take the next step in 2023 in an interview with MLive.com.
“When we look back at what we did in self-scout, all of our plays from last year, I came away with it personally that even if we didn’t run one new play this year — if we ran all the same plays that we ran last year – that we would be a better offense because we have to execute better than what we did,” Johnson said. “And we did a lot of nice things a year ago, and it really means nothing going forward to this year. We have to be a lot better in terms of the execution, and we should be because we should know what the problems for the plays that we are running now, run-plays, protections, pass concepts.
“And so I personally expect a huge step forward in terms of the growth, the knowledge base of our players, the experience they have under their belts now. And so that’s why the emphasis has been on the basics.”
The Lions sported one of the best offenses in the NFL last season. They averaged 251.8 passing yards (eighth in NFL), 128.2 rushing yards (11th), 380.0 total yards (fourth) and 26.6 points (fifth) per game. Quarterback Jared Goff had a resurgent campaign in what was his second season in Detroit, finishing with 4,438 passing yards, 29 passing interceptions, a 99.3 passer rating and just seven interceptions.
The Lions have done a lot of roster maneuvering on that side of the ball this offseason.
They lost running back Jamaal Williams, who ran for a franchise-record 17 touchdowns last season, to free agency, while trading running back Deandre Swift to the Philadelphia Eagles on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. Meanwhile, wide receiver Jameson Williams, who the Lions traded up to select with the No. 12 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, was one of four players on the team suspended for violating the NFL’s gambling policy; Williams will miss the first six games of next season.
The Swift trade came two days after the Lions moved back to No. 12 and selected Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs on Day 1 of the draft. Earlier in the offseason, they signed former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery to a three-year deal and reunited with wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. on a one-year deal (Jones played for the Lions from 2016-20).
On Day 2 of the draft, the Lions selected Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta at No. 34. LaPorta’s selection came roughly six months after they traded tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings at last season’s NFL trade deadline.
Despite the moving pieces, Johnson feels that the Lions are poised to make a jump, partially because of his new approach.
“If there’s one thing I’d say for me a year ago, I micromanaged maybe a little too much, just for the sake of making sure we were all on the same page of what the vision was,” Johnson said. “Now that we’ve been together for a year – and we do have a couple new coaches – I have a lot more trust. They know the language, they know the vernacular. There’s been more individual meetings, as opposed to offensive meetings, because these guys know what the expectation is, and they’re running with it. I have a huge comfort level with the coaching staff around me.”
Johnson is entering his fifth season with the Lions and second as offensive coordinator. A holdover from previous head coach Matt Patricia’s staff, Johnson has served as an offensive quality control coach, tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Johnson interviewed for the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers‘ head-coaching vacancies in January.