Optimism abounds for Detroit Lions; Dan Campbell calls it ‘irrelevant until we win’

It’s hard to turn on the TV these days or scroll the Internet without seeing someone picking the Detroit Lions to do good things in 2022.

One ESPN analyst predicted the Lions will make the playoffs this fall. A football analytics expert called them a contender to win the NFC North. And one longtime NFL scribe optimistically described them as “one of the most interesting teams in football.”

The compliments are nice, and do not seem entirely unwarranted despite the franchise not having won a playoff game in 31 years. But with the start of the regular season still three months away, Lions coach Dan Campbell said they remain largely meaningless for now.

Lions coach Dan Campbell hugs owner Sheila Ford Hamp during minicamp in Allen Park on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

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“I really don’t have a thought on it,” Campbell said Wednesday. “I’m just kind of, I’m neutral on it. It’s – we got a job to do and anything at this point is irrelevant until we win games. We got to win games, we got to set ourselves up to win games and go from there. ”

The Lions are coming off a 3-13-1 season in which they had the second-worst record in the NFL, but optimism abounds because of Campbell, the fight his team showed while piling up losses last season, tweaks the Lions made to the roster this spring and one of the league’s more favorable schedules.

Last year, the Lions lost three times on game-ending field goals, to the Minnesota Vikings in October, the Chicago Bears in November and the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 (on an NFL-record 66-yarder).

The Lions had their share of full-on stumbles last season. They were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks, but they won three of quarterback Jared Goff’s final four starts and seemed to find their stride after changing offensive play-callers at midseason.

Campbell promoted Ben Johnson to offensive coordinator this winter after he helped jumpstart the offense midway through the year, and the Lions are banking on continuity helping their team this fall.

They return their entire offensive line – which could be one of the better units in football— have a veteran backfield and two new weapons at receiver (DJ Chark and Jameson Williams) they expect will take pressure off their young defense.

Lions defensive linemen get instructions during OTAs on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Allen Park.

Lions defensive linemen get instructions during OTAs on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Allen Park.

Most of the praise directed the Lions’ way has come with the acknowledgment they remain in Year 2 of their rebuild.

Their defense has few proven NFL playmakers, three of their most important players are coming off serious season-ending injuries, including No. 12 overall pick Jameson Williams, and Goff has plenty of shortcomings at quarterback.

But in a down year in the division – the Green Bay The Packers remain a Super Bowl favorite, but the Vikings and Bears both have new coaches and general managers – there seems to be more hope than usual in early June.

Goff said he does not care about the praise that’s come the Lions’ way this spring.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “If we win, great. If we don’t, not great. We need to win, and we will be ready to go. ”

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And that seems to be the sentiment from most everyone else on the roster, too.

“I appreciate the media, I appreciate all the, I guess, status that we’re getting right now and recognition,” Lions safety Tracy Walker said. “But at the end of the day we got to go out there and still prove it. It’s a great thing to see that people are starting to believe in us, but they should have been believing in us. ”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions already gaining believers; is it warranted?

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