Last season, the Detroit Lions were one of the NFL's most unexpected success stories. The Lions didn't make the playoffs, but they were in contention until the final week of the season, largely on the strength of their explosive and efficient offense.
The Lions finished the season fourth in yards, fifth in points, fifth in Football Outsiders' offensive DVOA, and third in Tru Media's version of EPA per play. With one of the league's top offensive lines protecting him, Jared Goff had his best season in years, and players like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jamaal Williams, D'Andre Swift, D.J. Chark, and more played significant roles in elevating the team's performance.
Also key to the evolution was offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who became a hot name on the coaching circuit this offseason but decided to pull his name from consideration for several jobs and return to Detroit for at least another year. And Johnson sees big things coming for his offense this season.
"I personally expect a huge step forward in terms of the growth and knowledge base of our players the experience they have under their belt," Johnson said this week, per the team's official website. "That's why the emphasis has been on the basics. Let's get really good at the fundamentals because that's what helped us win games at the end of last year."
As for where the team can get better, Johnson doesn't think the Lions need to do anything new. They just need to do what they need to do what they already did, better.
"When we look back at what we did in self scout all of our plays from last year I came away from 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 we did," Johnson said. "We did a lot of nice things a year ago, but 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've ran it, and we should know what the problems are for the plays we're running now."
It appears that Lions head coach Dan Campbell agrees with Johnson on that front.
"Let's just fundamentally get a little bit better," Campbell said. "A little bit sharper with it. That is the tug-of-war we play right now. I'd like to believe that certainly, we want more, I mean that is what this game is. We did some good things offensively, but we want more out of it. And I think that is what we are into now and what camp will certainly be."
Detroit comes into the season expected to contend for the NFC North crown, and the expectation that the offense will be quite good is a significant factor in that. Having added David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Sam LaPorta in free agency and the draft should hopefully diversify things a bit, and getting Jameson Williams back on the field after his six-game suspension should elevate things further. Then, as Johnson says, it's all about executing things at a higher level.