Myriad significant dates lie ahead on the NFL calendar.
The 2023 NFL Draft is up next week. Thereafter, organized team activities kick off in May, mandatory minicamp is in June and the conclusion of July will see training camp commence.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff knows his calendar well. Thus, he recognizes that though his Lions might be darlings of the offseason, no amount of April buzz matters on the field in September.
“I don’t believe there are any favorites to win anything in April. But what do I know?” Goff told reporters Tuesday. “A lot can change from now until August or whatever. We like what we’ve done in the offseason and last year, but [there is] plenty of stuff to get better at and work on.”
Detroit is ablaze with buzz following a 2022 campaign that saw the Lions post a 9-8 record — the franchise’s first finish above .500 since 2017.
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With Aaron Rodgers set to leave the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears in a massive rebuild and the Minnesota Vikings’ roster in flux and the Lions on the rise, it would seem to be an opportune time for Detroit to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and collect the club’s first-ever NFC North title. That’s right, the Lions haven’t won a division crown since 1993 when they claimed the top spot in the NFC Central Division.
When they kick off the 2023 campaign, the Lions will be looking to carry over the momentum of having won five of their final six 2022 games. Though they came up short of the postseason, the Lions eliminated the rival Packers in the final game of the regular season.
So far this offseason, they’ve bolstered the defense with the signings of cornerback Cam Sutton and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, added running back David Montgomery and retained each of their coordinators (Ben Johnson on offense and Aaron Glenn on defense). 2022 No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson is coming off a resounding rookie season and fellow first-rounder Jameson Williams is healthy this offseason after the majority of his first year was spent recovering from a torn ACL.
These are exciting times in Detroit, but Goff is keeping a level head. And he’s not sure why his squad would have a target on its back at this point.
“I don’t think we have a bullseye,” he said. “We missed the playoffs. Why would we have a bullseye? I mean, we’ve played better. We played better last year and have a lot of work to do still. But yeah, we’re a better team. We’ll get teams’ better shots, maybe. But we certainly have done a lot of things that have improved our chances and hopefully can give us a better chance this year.”
Goff is deftly avoiding offseason tropes. He’s being realistic, yet still optimistic. Nothing has really changed yet, but as Goff enters his third season with the Lions he does admit there’s a different feel to the franchise.
“You see it up top, just the moves they made in the offseason. It’s slightly more aggressive this year,” Goff said. “This is my third offseason here now, and you can see the aggressiveness in them and it trickles into us. We see everything. We know what’s going on. In a couple weeks, the draft will come and there will be more of that there. But [there is] the aggressiveness of taking our shot and knowing that we have a team that can compete with anybody and really try to go make some noise this year.”
The Lions made plenty of noise in 2022. Just how high they can turn it up in 2023 is now the prevailing question. To Goff’s point, that’s a question that won’t be answered in April, but the hype and hope for his club is likely to carry on through kickoff in September.
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