LOS ANGELES – Defensive end Michael Brockers spent his first five years in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams on a roster that was trying to build towards the playoffs. It wasn't until 2017, in his sixth season, and the second year after the move from St. Louis to Los Angeles, that Brockers and the Rams had built a playoff-caliber roster.
Brockers knows from his Rams days what that process looks like and how just a few pieces here and there can make the biggest difference. He thinks Detroit is a few pieces away from a big turnaround in 2022, despite their three-win campaign this past season.
"When you go through a lot of these losses that we had – and a lot of close losses – people don't realize our record doesn't reflect how close we were in a lot of those games," Brockers told detroitlions.com on Radio Row Tuesday. "We had a lot of young players and we got hit with the injury bug. We were playing with a lot of backups and second-team guys, a lot of guys with not a lot of NFL experience.
"We have the core guys that we need. We need a couple more pieces here or there, but we have the coaches, we've got the guys. It's just about now taking all that experience that we learned and all the lessons we learned from last season and applying them to this season and learn and be better from them."
View photos from DLA Field Trip to the Charles H. Wright Museum.
Brockers said it was a credit to head coach Dan Campbell and his coaching staff that they were in as many games as they were playing as many young players and backups as they were forced to due to injury, but they'll be better for having gone through it.
Detroit finished the season with 15 players on injured reserve, and a number of core players like center Frank Ragnow, outside linebacker Romeo Okwara and cornerback Jeff Okudah missed most of the season.
It's also encouraging to Brockers that the young players who were forced into action grew throughout the the year. The mistakes they were making early in the season weren't being made at the end of the year while the team was able to win some games.
"You have that growth," he said. "A couple more pieces and we're right there."
When it comes to the defensive line group in particular, Brockers says he's been preaching accountability, especially to young players like Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike.
"Demanding more of my group," Brockers said of the message to his defensive line mates this offseason. "Coming into this season, knowing more of the guys, want to be more vocal. Just express to them that I think we should be accountable at all levels and understanding that this is a team that's ran in the trenches with the big boys. We have a great o-line. We have a good d-line. We just have to stay after it and stay healthy and keep going."
The defense will be able to keep going and growing under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who is expected to be back in Detroit after not landing a head coaching job elsewhere in this year's hiring cycle, despite interviewing with a couple teams.
View photos of Detroit Lions guard Jonah Jackson and Detroit Lions Cheerleader Micah at the 2022 Pro Bowl in Las Vegas, NV.
Brockers admitted he was a bit nervous seeing Glenn's name come up in head coaching interviews.
"It's going to be a great experience to work with him again," he said of Glenn. "Just to see his growth and see where he wants to take this team. One thing I know about AG is he wants to be the best at everything he does. It bites at him when he's not. I know this is eating at him and he just wants to get back there and prove why he's one of the best coordinators in the league."
Big turnarounds happen in the NFL every year. The Cincinnati Bengals are a perfect example of that this year after winning just four games in 2020. With a few solid moves this offseason, Brockers thinks Detroit can take a big leap forward next season.