From time to time this offseason Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."
20man: Absolutely. General manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell have done a good job surrounding Jared Goff with the weapons he needs to be successful. They revamped the receiver corps with the additions of veteran DJ Chark and rookie Jameson Williams to make it a much more explosive and versatile room. The additions of Chark and Williams, along with the return of Josh Reynolds, allow the Lions to push the ball down the field and outside the numbers more, something that was lacking in this offense a season ago.
New offensive coordinator Ben Johnson invited Goff to watch film and build this offense around things Goff likes and has done well previously. There are principles Johnson believes in and will incorporate, but Goff was a big part in helping build Johnson's scheme in Detroit.
Goff's contract runs through 2024, but it's structured in a way where the dead money is manageable next season and in 2024, if the Lions decide to go another way. Goff is a smart guy, he knows this has to work here for him to continue to be a starter.
I'll say this from talking to Goff in the offseason, he really seems to like it here in Detroit. He loves this team and the coaching staff. He's hungry to prove himself, and I'd be a little surprised if he didn't play well this year. I expect him to show why he was a former No. 1 pick who has been to Pro Bowls and had playoff success in his career.
20man: Third-year cornerback Jeff Okudah. The No. 3 overall pick in 2020 has had a rough start to his career because of injuries. He dealt with a core muscle injury as a rookie and a torn Achilles last year, which has allowed him to play in just 10 games his first two seasons.
Okudah had a terrific training camp last year and was going to be a big part of that defense, if not for the Achilles injury suffered Week 1. He's worked himself back, and I've never seen a more motivated player to prove himself. It's a great sign he's not starting camp on PUP.
Look, we all know this defense has to be much better for this team to be better in 2022. Okudah has the potential to be one of those players that helps them get there. I know I'm rooting for him, and Lions fans should be too.
20man: For me it's pretty simple. After a rough start to 2021 and just three wins total, I think a sign of improvement for this team is getting off to a good start in the first month of the season and parlaying that into playing meaningful games in December. I think the roster is at a point where that should be a minimum goal, and honestly it would be a little disappointing if that wasn't the case.
I'm not saying Detroit has to be a playoff team in year two of this rebuild for 2022 to be a success. Continuing to develop players and seeing improvement across the board in all three phases is important in any rebuild, but we do see teams take a big jump from worst to first or worst to playoffs. A good 2022 season for the Lions in my book is for them to be fighting for a playoff spot in December, even if they don't ultimately earn one. I think it will take eight or nine wins to get into the conversation.
20man: I expect this offense to be fun to watch. It all starts upfront, where Detroit's expected to have one of the best offensive lines in the game. With that, they are already ahead of the game on that side of the ball.
They've upgraded at receiver, they have a Pro Bowl tight end in T.J. Hockenson and an exciting young running back in D'Andre Swift, who I expect to take a big leap in production in 2022. The only real question mark is whether Goff can pick up where he left off the second half of last year, when he had the sixth best passer rating in the league. I don't think it's outlandish to expect the Lions' offense to rank in the top half of the NFL. I also think a much improved offense can help the defense by continuing to run the football consistently and putting drives together to hold on to the ball and help keep the defense off the field a little more.
Defensively, the Lions ranked 31st in points allowed per game, 29th in total defense, 28th against the run, 24th against the pass and 29th on third down a year ago. For this team to see a big improvement in the win column, this defense has to be better. If it's just a little bit better, say they rank in the high teens or in the early 20s, this will be a much better football team overall. I trust DC Aaron Glenn and his staff to develop players, and I really think the scheme changes are going to help all aspects on that side of the ball. They'll be better defensively, but how much better will directly correlate to how much better this football team is.
20man: The two most likely players to me that could be up for new contracts are Hockenson and punter Jack Fox. Hockenson is headed into his fourth season. The Lions picked up the fifth-year option of his contract this offseason. He's become one of the bright young tight ends in the league, and Johnson has big plans for him in his offense this year. They were moving him all around the offense in the spring and they plan to use him as a key matchup weapon. I could see a long-term deal getting done to avoid the fifth-year option and keep him a Lion for the foreseeable future.
Fox has become one of the best punters in the NFL in just two seasons in the league. His gross and net punting average are the best in NFL history through a player's first 100 punts. He's earned a long-term deal.
20man: Good question. Unlike past years, I think the road to earning a roster spot out of camp for the undrafted guys is a little harder just with where the roster is at.
That being said, two players among the UDFAs who stood out to me in the spring were offensive tackle Obinna Eze and wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton. Eze has terrific length and was running with the second-team offense some in the spring. He has arms as long as trees, and it's a pretty open competition at tackle behind Taylor Decker, Penei Sewell and Matt Nelson for the No. 4 spot. Pimpleton is explosive and quick, but it's a crowded receiver room and he has a similar skillset to Raymond. Still, teams find a way to find a roster spot for guys who make plays. Pimpleton will get his chance to do that.
Those are two to keep an eye on early, but I'm sure others will make a case as camp carries on.
20man: I hate to put a lot of pressure on a rookie because the jump from college to the NFL is so significant, but Aidan Hutchinson was drafted No. 2 overall for a reason, and the Lions are going to rely on him a lot to give their pass rush a boost. He can play up and down the defensive line, and the Lions plan to utilize that skillset.
Recently on the Adam Schefter Podcast, Glenn raved about Hutchinson's versatility and approach to the game. Glenn said Hutchinson showed them in the spring everything they thought they were getting and more. He's going to get plenty of opportunities to make plays, and if he starts fast and helps improve the pass rush, this defense has a chance be much improved.
20man: Chark was a 1,000-yard receiver and Pro Bowler in 2019. He caught 53 balls for 706 yards and five scores in 13 games in 2020. A foot injury limited him to just four games a season ago, though he averaged 22.0 yards per reception in those four games.
Chark is only 25 years old and has the size and speed to be a real factor in this offense. I've always considered him one of the better 50-50 pass catchers in the league. If he comes in and does what the Lions expect him to do, which is be a big-play threat in their offense and a difference maker on the outside, I think the money will take care of itself.
It was the same situation for defensive lineman Charles Harris last season. He signed a one-year deal, balled out by leading the team with 7.5 sacks, and earned a lucrative two-year extension for his efforts. That deal should show all players on one-year "prove it" deals that Holmes is willing to reward the players that come in and perform on those contracts. Chark is in a great spot to capitalize on that next offseason with a good 2022.
20man: That will be an interesting competition to watch. Chark, Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Reynolds and Raymond seem pretty safe, especially when we consider Raymond is one of the better punt return men in the league, on top of catching 48 balls last year.
Quintez Cephus and Trinity Benson both played really well in the spring and could be battling for the last spot in that room. How long Williams stays on the NFI list will affect how many roster spots there are coming out of camp, but that's the competition to watch.
Cephus might be Detroit's best all-around receiver in terms of his combined strength, ability to make tough catches and his run-after-the-catch ability. Benson has speed to burn, and we saw a comfort level with him in the spring we didn't see early in the season last year after the Lions traded for him before the start of the season.
I really like Cephus as a player, and if I had to make a guess right now, I'd be a little surprised if he wasn't on the roster Week 1.
20man: The Lions are much deeper at receiver than they are along the interior of their defensive line. They could start to miss Paschal if his injury lingers. The good news is it didn't sound like Campbell was overly concerned about Paschal's injury being a long-term thing when we last talked to him in June. I'm sure the subject will be brought up during his first press conference on Wednesday.
The Lions knew they were going to have to take their time with Williams, and Holmes still felt good about moving up 20 spots in the draft to get him. They think he can be that much of a difference maker for them when he's healthy, but they aren't going to rush it, especially with the depth they have at receiver.
It's certainly not ideal for young players to miss time, especially the start of camp, but it's better to get them 100 percent than to rush them back and have something linger into the season.
I wouldn't be too worried about Paschal until there's reason to be. We all knew what the Williams timeline was when he was drafted. He could miss some time, but it's expected he'll be out there at some point, hopefully in the first half of the season.