LOS ANGELES – It was almost like quarterback Jared Goff had two different seasons in 2021.
There was the first half, when the Lions were struggling offensively with a dink and dunk passing game and not a lot of creativity.
Then head coach Dan Campbell took over play calling coming out of the team's Week 9 bye, tight ends coach Ben Johnson was promoted to a pass game coordinator role, and some receivers around Goff started elevating their play. It all helped Goff up his game as well.
Over his last six starts after the change, Goff had an 11-to-two touchdown-to-interception ratio with a rating north of 100.0. Detroit was 3-2-1 in those contests.
It's that second half performance that has Goff excited about the potential of this offense in 2022. So how does Goff make sure he and the Lions pick up right where they left off next season? He told Detroitlions.com Monday it starts with him continuing to improve his craft with a strong offseason.
"It's always evolving and changing," Goff said of his offseason routine. "I'd say at this point four or five years in you figure out what your routine is, so I have my routine.
"But specifically, I'd like to get stronger and faster. I'd like to improve some areas that I think I can. Just be better for everyone.
"There were times this year that weren't my best. There were times that I was able to show what I'm capable of and be out there and be at my best. Hope to do that quite a bit more, more consistently."
Goff gave a lot of credit to both Campbell and Johnson for the impact they had on the offense down the stretch after taking on bigger roles the final nine games of the season.
Johnson has since sat down with Campbell a couple times to talk about the vacant offensive coordinator job in Detroit.
Goff said Johnson reminds him a lot of his former coach, Rams head coach Sean McVay.
"He's very smart," Goff said of Johnson. "He knows the game and knows offense and defense and he knows every position. He understands leverages and angles and all that good stuff.
"But I think more than anything, what my experience was with Sean (McVay) in LA, and recently with Ben when he was kind of taking control of the pass game at least, those guys aren't afraid to try stuff and that's where that creativity is the word you use.
"Even if they haven't seen it, Ben was this way too, even if you haven't seen it across the league, you believe it'll work and you try it, put it on tape and see if it'll work. That's the kind of stuff."
Goff made the point that anyone can copy stuff from what they see around the league.
"But when you have a guy who's willing to stick his neck out for a concept or play that he believes in, and have it work, that's when you know you got something special," Goff said.
Goff is only 27 years old, and yet he sometimes feels like the old guy when he sees the young players in the offensive meeting room.
It's those youngsters assembled around Goff – with more to come this offseason – that he says can also be one of the biggest catalysts to a quick turnaround in Detroit. He says it starts with right tackle Penei Sewell and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
"I think those two guys, St. Brown and Penei, they showed their worth," Goff said. "I think those are two guys you can build around and use in a lot of different ways. Obviously, Penei is extremely athletic. St. Brown can catch the ball, you can hand it to him, you can do a bunch of different things. Deebo Samuel is kind of the blue print for that right now. He's a tremendous player, man."
Sewell was recently named to the Pro Football Writers and Pro Football Focus All-Rookie Teams after playing both left and right tackle for the Lions this past year, allowing just five sacks.
St. Brown had the most receptions (90) and receiving yards (912) by a rookie in franchise history, and is the only rookie in NFL history with eight catches in six straight games.
Goff also mentioned third-year running back D'Andre Swift, 23, and fourth-year tight end T.J. Hockenson, 24, as players that have him optimistic for 2022.
"Swift's been incredible, and Swift's in year two last year. He's still young," Goff said. "So is T.J. – year three last year. They are all young. It was fun to kind of be the veteran guy that was part of that."
View photos of Detroit Lions guard Jonah Jackson and Detroit Lions Cheerleader Micah at the 2022 Pro Bowl in Las Vegas, NV.
RETURNING OFFENSIVE LINE
Football games are usually won and lost in the trenches. It doesn't matter how much talent a team assembles at the skill positions if they can't control the line of scrimmage.
Guard Jonah Jackson just got done playing in the Pro Bowl this past weekend. Center Frank Ragnow was a Pro Bowler last year, and is expected to be full-go this offseason after missing 14 games due to foot surgery. We talked about Sewell's rookie accomplishments above, and he's expected to take a big leap in development heading into year two. Taylor Decker is a top 10 left tackle, and veteran guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai doesn't get enough credit for the season he had in 2021. He didn't allow a single sack in 15 games played.
"There ain't nothing better from my position knowing those guys are going to be there," Goff said of the o-line returning next season. "It's exciting to get Frank back healthy, and really getting everyone healthy. It wasn't like everyone was playing with perfect health.
"Taylor missed the first half of the season and Jonah was banged up quite a bit. All those guys were. Getting everyone back healthy and getting everyone back to a point where they feel good and start gelling will be really important and will be really fun."