Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes and assistant general manager Ray Agnew spoke to the media Thursday following the team's roster cuts Tuesday and the formation of the practice squad on Wednesday.
Holmes and Agnew covered a wide range of topics. Here are the key questions from that session:
How much more difficult were the roster decisions this year vs. last year?
It was really night and day, according to Holmes, who said last year when the team had to make their first cuts from 90 to 85, after the first couple days of camp he knew who the five were. Same with the cut to 80. Even the cut from 80 to 53 a year ago, Holmes said he and head coach Dan Campbell had one or two discussions that needed to be made.
"Fast forward to this year, just getting to 85 was difficult," Holmes said. "You kind of got to about three and then it was like, 'OK, I'm not sure if I want to quite do this yet."
The roster is more talented this year, and the hope is that leads to more wins and meaningful football being played in December.
What went behind the backup quarterback decisions?
Holmes was pretty honest in his assessment of Tim Boyle and David Blough, and the decision to move on from both players and bring in veteran Nate Sudfeld.
"We had a plan in place and felt good about it," Holmes said of bringing back Boyle and Blough and letting them compete for the backup job. "They just didn't quite make the jump we expected them to make and so you just have to make some tough decisions and find the best solution you can."
Some may argue the decision could have been made earlier in camp, but Holmes wanted to give both players every chance to show they could make the jump, and when it was starting to trend that they weren't going to, Holmes started looking at every other option available to him.
What position group did Holmes and Agnew have their eyes on the most throughout camp?
For Holmes, it was the secondary. There were certainly a lot of question marks with that group coming into camp, but Holmes said a lot of those questions were answered, especially with the way cornerback Jeff Okudah stepped up to the challenge and played throughout camp. He really looked good and earned the starting job opposite Amani Oruwariye.
The secondary has played especially well over the course of the last two weeks.
Agnew said it was the inside stacked linebacker group for him. Again, a position with a lot of question marks heading into camp. Agnew thought the group responded, and he feels better about the position now than he did going into camp.
What's the biggest change Holmes has seen in quarterback Jared Goff over the last year?
"I do believe the confidence he has going into this year has been a big difference," Holmes said. "I always felt he was a confident kid. He's always been a mentally tough kid. But I think us giving him ownership and letting him know, 'Look, we believe in you, we're supporting you, we're going to put you in the best position to succeed. You're the quarterback.'"
The Lions surrounded Goff with a better supporting cast and gave him that ownership of the offense. It's translated to the field all through camp.
How has No. 2 pick Aidan Hutchinson looked over the last month?
That question got a smile from Agnew.
"I can't stop smiling," he admitted. "I love the kid. Much better athlete than we thought he was at the draft process. The things he can do rushing the passer inside and off the edge, using his hands, he's very creative as a rusher. I'll just say this. We got the right one."
Hutchinson made it known pretty quickly he's all about business, and he's expected to have a big impact for Detroit's defense.
Any update on rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams' potential return?
Williams, the No. 12 pick in the draft, is currently on the Reserve/NFI list and will miss at least the first four games of the season as he rehabs an ACL injury.
Holmes didn't want to put out a hard date on Williams' return, but he likes the progress Williams is making, and said the team will not rush him back before he's 100 percent ready to return.
"Hopefully it's sooner rather than later," Holmes said. "But we're going to continue to be smart with him. I know he's chomping at the bit. He'd put on a helmet right now and go out there and he would jog a slant route. But we have to be smart because we didn't make that move for him for Year 1. This is a long-term investment."
Why do Holmes and Agnew have a lot of confidence Detroit's defense will be better in 2022?
The short answer is defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
The defense ranked toward the bottom of the league in a lot of major statistical categories last year. Holmes and Agnew spent a lot of resources in the draft and free agency on that side of the ball. They also expect some young players to take big leaps in development and production.
But most of all, they have a ton of confidence in Glenn.