ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jared Goff took on one of the biggest quarterbacks in franchise history in Matthew Stafford and entered the Detroit Lions training camp with few expectations from the outside world.
At the Lions training facility, however, he begins to attract teammates – even in the great shadow that Stafford left behind.
“I’m by no means a quarterback expert, but you do hear of guys who have good arms and then actually see them throw them in person,” said Lions offensive tackle Taylor Decker. “You see a guy throwing a ball and he throws it well and you say, ‘Oh, that’s how it should look’ and put it on a dime where it’s supposed to be.”
Taking over under Center for a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in three decades is very different from quarterbacking the star-studded Los Angeles Rams who led Goff to an appearance on Super Bowl LIII.
It’s a new beginning. A fresh start.
The NFL regular season is just around the corner. Here are the biggest questions and squad predictions for all 32 teams. Continue reading »
• Full schedule for 2021 | Depth charts »
• Transactions | Injuries | More NFL »
“I think that transition happened some time ago when I was here for the first time in May. At this point I feel at home. I feel good, ”said Goff, referring to the change in teams and the climate. “I feel great and I couldn’t be happier to be here and I’m excited to see what we can do. I enjoy starting a new challenge and being in a new environment. “
Although the 2020 season was a disaster for the Lions, who finished 5-11 and featured the NFL’s worst defense, the overall mood among Campbell and his staff appears to be different.
Both Campbell and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn consulted Goff on developing the new offensive. One of Campbell’s early observations about Goff at training camp was how much more comfortable he is and how much more ownership he has taken on since the spring to this day.
“He loves progress. He loves reading progress, ”said Campbell. “He loves to throw it downfield, he really does. A lot of it comes with Run Play Pass, things like that. “
The offensive line is expected to be a strong point for the Lions and, according to Campbell, to be ahead of the other position groups in its development. Decker, a classmate on Goff’s 2016 NFL Draft, continues to learn the tendencies of the quarterback as well as the rest of the O-Line group.
But the receiving corps remains relatively unknown, with Tyrell Williams, Caliph Raymond, Victor Bolden, Quintez Cephus, Damion Ratley, Breshad Perriman, and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown all struggling to make some noise.
“I feel like we’re all pretty motivated. We know everyone counts us somehow, ”said Perriman. “It’s a huge opportunity for everyone in the room. My focus is really on getting better every day and just doing our part and the rest will take care of itself. “
Goff could have a strong run game with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams both expecting to get lots of carries and catch balls from the backcourt, but the receivers remain a question mark. After a Pro Bowl season, tight end TJ Hockenson is also preparing for a bigger role and could very well be Goff’s main target, but insists that the recipients “do a great job.”
“All of these guys, I’ve seen a couple of routes where I thought, ‘Damn, okay. I see that. I’ll try to take that, ”said Hockenson. “So they’re showing some good stuff out there and we’re just trying to build on that every day.”
As a rookie, St. Brown took a serious approach and put extra work into the JUGs machine. After the first day of training camp, the USC product was one of the last to leave the field, catching more than 200 additional balls. Goff shapes him as a slot receiver – the role in which Cooper Kupp was successful in Los Angeles. And St. Brown was one of the teammates who accompanied him to practice in California that off-season.
The fact is, however, that Cephus is the only returning Lions recipient who had a catch for the team last season, while Perriman, Williams, Raymond and Ratley combined only made 32 receptions and 552 yards in 2020. Williams, like most of the recipient space, enters Detroit with a point to prove after missing the entire 2020 season due to a ruptured labrum in his right shoulder and being released by the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I feel like I’ve been kind of overlooked throughout my career. I came in undrafting so I kind of have that kind of chip on my shoulder that I always play with, ”Williams said. “It definitely drives you to get the recognition you deserve and all, but I feel like we have a great group of recipients above all.”
Though it’s early days, Goff sees something he likes within the unproven reception corps: a challenge.
“I think you will surprise a lot of people,” he said of the recipients. “You were fun. It was fun to play with them. “
So far, Californian Goff has enjoyed the Midwestern scene. During a game of the Tigers on July 21st, he caused cheers in Comerica Park, where the club gave him a personalized MLB jersey as a token of appreciation.
His next goal is to attract Lions fans to Ford Field, where Stafford’s legacy stands out.
“Sure, yes. It’s always fun to be the underdog who goes into the games, teams can take you lightly, ”said Goff. “If that’s the case, we look forward to it.”
Many of these die-hard Lions fans were present at the training facility for the open outdoor exercises during the training camp. Goff has high hopes in Motown.
“We also have our internal expectations. For us it’s the same as for any other team, ”said Goff. “It’s a team that is happy at the end of the year and we want to be that one team. Of course we want to win the division first, and that’s where you get into the playoffs and win a championship. That is always the expectation. That is always the goal. I know this hasn’t happened in a long time, but that’s our expectation. “