The good: It really was a tale of two seasons for quarterback Jared Goff in 2021. Goff had just eight touchdowns and six interceptions with a passer rating hovering around 85.0 the first half of the season as the Lions went into their bye week 0-8.
Coming out of the bye, head coach Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who is no longer with the team, and tight ends coach Ben Johnson was given more responsibilities within the offense as the pass game coordinator. The changes had a big and immediate impact on the offense and the performance of Goff the second half of the season.
Goff threw 11 touchdowns vs. just two interceptions over his last six starts the second half of season, with a rating north of 100.0. He finished 3-2-1 over those starts.
The way Goff played down the stretch should make Lions fans feel pretty good heading into the second offseason with Goff at the helm as the Lions continue to try and put pieces around him.
The bad: There are still some numbers the Lions need to be a lot better with if this offense, and particularly the passing attack, are going to be better in 2022.
Let's start with third down. The Lions were tied for last in the NFL with Chicago on converting on third down just 34.7 percent of the time.
Just to put this is a little bit of perspective in terms of third-down success and how it correlates to winning: Kansas City (52.2), Tampa Bay (47.1), Buffalo (46.4), Philadelphia (45.7), Arizona (45.2), Los Angeles Chargers (45.2), Los Angeles Rams (43.9), Tennessee (43.6), Green Bay (43.6) and New England (43.5) finished in the top 10 in third-down conversion percentage. Of those 10, only the Chargers (barely) missed the playoffs.
Detroit was also 31st in the NFL in red-zone scoring at just 47.8 percent. Only the New York Giants (44.7) were lower.
The Lions had 38 three-and-out drives this season, or 21.2 percent of all their drives, which ranked 23rd in the NFL.
Staying on the field, converting third down and making sure touchdowns are scored in the red zone are three biggest improvements the Lions can make this offseason to assure they are a better offense in 2022.
Key stat: The Lions were one of just 11 teams in the NFL this past season to have at least 10 touchdown passes of 20-plus yards. Most of those came the second half of the year, which continues to paint the picture of just how much the passing game opened up and started unlocking the deep passing attack after Campbell and Johnson became more involved.
It should also be noted this coincides with the addition of veteran wide receiver Josh Reynolds the second half of the year too.
The only quarterbacks currently under contract once the new league year begins for the Lions will be Goff and practice squad QB Steven Montez.
After spending a couple seasons as Aaron Rodgers' backup in Green Bay, Boyle signed a one-year deal with Detroit to be Goff's backup. He got an opportunity to start three games, his first career starts, as Goff dealt with a couple injuries throughout the course of the season.
Boyle completed 64.9 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and six interceptions in those three starts, all Lions losses.
Blough started five games in 2019, completing 54 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and six interceptions. He's 0-5 as a starter.
Draft: This draft isn't considered top heavy with quarterback talented like last year's draft where the first three picks were quarterbacks, but it's still a talented class that might have more overall depth than last year.
This class of quarterbacks is senior driven, which certainly works out in Detroit's favor being one of the two teams coaching the Senior Bowl early next month. Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Malik Willis (Liberty), Sam Howell (North Carolina), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), Carson Strong (Nevada) and Bailey Zappe (Western Kentucky) are all taking part in the Senior Bowl next month. The Lions are coaching Howell, Willis and Zappe.
Only underclassmen Matt Corral (Ole Miss) is considered among the half dozen or so top quarterback prospects in the draft who won't be down in Mobile.
If the Lions are looking for a young backup to start working with behind Goff, they will certainly have a good grasp on all the quarterbacks available in this class by the time April's NFL Draft rolls around.
MVP: Goff fought through the adversity the first half of the season and never gave up hope. There seemed to be a disconnect with Lynn the first half of the season, but Goff really took off the second part of the season under Campbell and Johnson. The way Goff played down the stretch was a big reason the Lions were able to win the games they did this season.
Most improved: This one belongs to Goff too, but it really applies to the improvement he made the second half vs. first half of the year.
Give Goff a healthy offensive line, which is one of the better units in the league when healthy, running back D'Andre Swift, Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson, slot receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and one more explosive veteran or young receiver on the outside, along with the depth the team has built at receiver, and this offense looks like it can be much improved in 2022.
Quotable: "There's a lot of reason for optimism, man," Goff said of next season offensively. "It's really an exciting time to be where we're at. I know the record doesn't reflect that, but the way the season ended and the way a lot of these guys played gives us a lot of reasons to be excited.
"I know Brad's (Holmes) excited to get going this offseason and do what he can to do some additions, but I think Amon-Ra's going to be tremendous for a long time, I think T.J. is going to be tremendous for a long time, if we get Reynolds back, Kailf (Raymond), some of those guys – (Quintez) Cephus will be off injury. So we'll see. But it's really exciting for me to be a part of it, and have all those guys around me."