Week 1 of the regular season is finally here, and head coach Dan Campbell opened the week by speaking to the media Monday afternoon. The Lions host the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that has division title aspirations in the NFC East, Sunday at Ford Field to kick off the regular season.
Here are all the key questions from Campbell's Monday presser:
Who is calling plays for the Lions' offense Sunday?
That one is still yet to be determined, according to Campbell.
"This is going to be interesting," Campbell said, when asked about the play calling for Sunday. "I'm excited to know, too. I'll be honest with you, I'm not quite there yet. I still have this eagerness to want to call it myself. I don't know."
Despite Campbell's comments, I'd still be a little surprised if it's not Johnson calling plays with Campbell's input come Sunday, but it seems that's still up in the air.
What jumped out when putting on the tape of the Eagles?
Offensively: Their ability to run the football. Philadelphia led the NFL in rushing last season, becoming just the fourth team since 1980 to record at least 2,700 rushing yards with 25 rushing touchdowns.
The Eagles rushed 46 times for 236 yards (5.1 average) with four rushing touchdowns in their 44-6 defeat of the Lions at Ford Field last season. We'll see what kind of improvements the Lions have made this offseason to last year's 28th ranked rushing defense.
One thing Campbell said the Lions will really have to work on this week is preparing for Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, who led all quarterback in rushing yards last year with 784 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He rushed seven times for 71 yards against the Lions last year.
Defensively: Campbell was quick to bring up the Eagles' disruptive defensive front, led by Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Jordan Davis, Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett.
"This d-line now is the real deal," Campbell said. "They've got enough juice off the edge right now with Reddick, and then they still have Cox to push the middle, among others. They have a whole crew in there. That to me is the first thing that shows up."
That will be one of the best matchups in Sunday's contest. Who wins more consistently between a Lions offensive line that's expected to be the strength of this team and a really disruptive Eagles defensive line. That might ultimately determine a winner.
How much did the loss to Philadelphia last year spur second-half changes in Detroit?
Campbell and the Lions were embarrassed by the Eagles a season ago, and that loss led to significant changes in Campbell's first season as head coach, as follows:
- Campbell took over offensive play calling from then offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.
- The team elevated tight ends coach Ben Johnson to pass-game coordinator the rest of the season. Johnson is now the team's OC.
- They also made some changes schematically and personnel-wise on defense.
"It was an embarrassing loss," Campbell said Monday. "They let us have it. They rubbed our nose in it. They came in and did everything they wanted to do to us times ten.
"It opened our eyes to some things and I think it forced us to have to make some changes on both sides of the ball. We had to do things differently."
Campbell said he expects the Eagles to come in and try to do the same things as last year to see if the Lions have fixed their problems.
What kind of challenge will Eagles wide receivers DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown pose?
Smith led Philadelphia last season with a franchise-rookie-record 916 receiving yards with five touchdowns. He joined Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and Amon-Ra St. Brown as the only rookies with at least 900 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Brown was traded to the Eagles in the offseason after spending his first three seasons with the Titans. He caught 63 passes for 869 yards and five scores in 2021. He was a 1,000-yard receiver in both 2019 and 2020. He's tough and physical, which is a nice complement to Smith's vertical speed threat.
"Those are two very good receivers over there and they are very different," Campbell said. "But I think in regard to that, so is Amani (Oruwariye) and (Jeff) Okudah. They are very different just in the nature of the way they are and the way they play and what their game's about. That gives us some flexibility."
How has St. Brown taken the next step in Year 2?
It really comes down to consistency with St. Brown. We saw it at the end of last year, and Campbell said he's really picked up where he left off a season ago, when he finished the last six games with at least eight receptions, and was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in December.
His 90 receptions and 912 receiving yards were both Lions franchise records a season ago.
"He became consistent at the end of the year," Campbell said of St. Brown. "And he picked up right where he left off."