Detroit Lions fans seem optimistic about season even before Hard Knocks premiere -- are you?

First episode of Hard Knocks featuring Lions airs Tuesday night

Jamaal Williams #30 of the Detroit Lions laughs during the Detroit Lions Training Camp at the Lions Headquarters and Training Facility on July 29, 2022 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Nic Antaya, 2022 Getty Images)

DETROIT – Is it just me, or is there a sense of optimism among Detroit Lions fans heading into this season?

Maybe it’s just the buzz leading up to Tuesday night’s Hard Knocks episode, which will give fans a peek into what’s sure to be an entertaining training camp. But it feels like many people are excited about more than fiery Dan Campbell speeches and rookie renditions of “Billie Jean.”

Since last Thanksgiving, when the Lions served up a game-winning field goal to the Chicago Bears and fell to 0-10-1, things have quietly gone well for this long-tortured fan base.

The team finished 3-3 down the stretch, including a blowout victory over the playoff-bound Arizona Cardinals and a (rest-aided) win over the Green Bay Packers. Then, the franchise announced Detroit will host the 2024 NFL draft. That same day, HBO revealed “Hard Knocks” would feature the Lions for the first time ever.

Was it a dream? Nope! For a day, it was actually fun to be a Detroit Lions supporter.

Throw in a draft class headlined by Michigan star Aidan Hutchinson and stud Alabama receiver Jameson Williams, and the offseason went better than anyone could have expected.

Jameson Williams #18 of the Detroit Lions during training camp on July 27, 2022 in Allen Park, Michigan. (2022 Getty Images)

Lions fans definitely deserve some legitimate hope. But in the back of every fan’s mind -- even the most loyal diehards -- there has to be a little voice whispering, “How will the Lions hurt me this time?”

It’s one thing to watch the Lions crash and burn when everyone knows they’re going to be terrible. But if they fall flat when fans actually have expectations, it will hurt a lot worse.

You see, this year, there are actual football reasons to believe the Lions should be vastly improved.

On offense, a wide receiver trio of Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark, and (eventually) Williams should be much more formidable than what quarterback Jared Goff had to work with a year ago.

Speaking of Goff, his second half is another reason for optimism. Take a look at his splits from before and after Campbell took over the offensive play calling:

Play callerPassing yards per gameCompletion %TD passesInterceptionsYards/attempt
Anthony Lynn249.466.9%866.48
Dan Campbell208.367.7%1126.72

It was only six games (Goff missed three weeks due to injury/COVID), but Campbell’s adjustments were effective. He didn’t ask Goff to do too much. He stuck to his quarterback’s strengths. The result was a more balanced offense and a much more efficient passing attack.

It didn’t hurt that St. Brown caught 51 passes for 560 yards and five touchdowns in the final six weeks.

The offensive line should remain a strength, with star center Frank Ragnow returning from injury and standout rookie Penei Sewell a year older. Jonah Jackson was good enough to be a Pro Bowl replacement last year, and Taylor Decker is, well, highly paid, at the very least.

D’Andre Swift, when put in the right situations, can be a game changing running back behind that line, especially in the short passing game. Jamaal Williams is a nice power compliment (and a really fun player to root for).

We haven’t even talked about T.J. Hockenson, who has the ability to be a weapon in the passing game, as well.

If the Lions stink again, it’ll likely be the fault of the defense, which got decimated by injuries and finished bottom five in both yards and points per game allowed in 2021.

Head coach Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions smile while answering questions from reporters during the Detroit Lions Training Camp at the Lions Headquarters and Training Facility on July 29, 2022 in Allen Park, Michigan. (2022 Getty Images)

Hutchinson -- a Heisman finalist and All-American last year -- should help all levels of that defense with an improved pass rush, but there are still major questions about the linebackers and defensive backs.

Can Jeff Okudah live up to the expectations of a first-round pick? Will Romeo Okwara return from injury and contribute? Are there any legitimate starting caliber linebackers on the roster?

It’s hard to imagine the defense being anything other than bad, but it shouldn’t be quite as bad as last season.

So there are rays of light peeking through the dark tunnel of Lions fandom, but with this franchise, there are also plenty of reasons for skepticism. I don’t think I need to list them here -- everyone knows the history.

Still, the overall mood of the fan base seems to be cautious optimism, and that can be a dangerous gateway to full-blown hope.

What about you? How are you feeling before Hard Knocks begins? Plant your flag now, because watching Williams and Campbell is only going to make the optimism run deeper.


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.