Quarterback Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions' offense have ranked among the league's best passing units all season. Goff ranks in the top 10 in the league in passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating. Detroit's offense is fifth in points scored, fourth in total offense and eighth in passing.
But Detroit's deep passing game has been somewhat inconsistent this season. Goff has attempted just the 17th most passes of 20-plus yards and has the 13th most completions, per Pro Football Focus stats. But as of recently, the big play has been back in the Lions' offense.
"I think I go back to when we initially got healthy and however many games that was ago, and DJ (Chark) is back and Josh (Reynolds) is back, and now Jameson (Williams) coming into the fold, and it's like, we've got guys that can really stretch the field now, and that's number one, just having guys that can really do that, and guys that I feel comfortable with and fits in our offense, and then just time on task," Goff said this week.
Goff has hit Chark on passes of 51, 48 and 41 yards over the last three weeks. He connected with Kalif Raymond on a 56-yard play down the middle. Williams caught a 41-yard touchdown pass against the Vikings Week 14, and Josh Reynolds and Amon-Ra St. Brown have also gotten into the mix.
"Just getting reps with those guys and feeling good about it, and DJ, you've seen over the last handful of weeks, catching those deep balls, and him and I have a good thing going," Goff said. "Kalif (Raymond), we hit on one, and Jameson, we hit a few weeks ago, so yeah, as we continue to grow, hopefully we continue to hit deep balls and continue to get over the top of defenses, and it'll really change everything we can do."
Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said Goff is doing a really good job finding favorable matchups to go after those big plays and doing his homework on when he feels good about taking a shot or challenging a safety based on the look or the player back there.
"The more reps we get with these wideouts and see them come down and make a contested catch, the more trust he has to go ahead and pull that trigger," Johnson said. "I would say he probably could have done it a little bit more last game too. There were a couple other opportunities, so we're continuing to encourage him to do that, and really start some practice for us where we're getting in that groove."
In the month of December, Goff was first among all quarterbacks in 300-yard games (3), second in QB rating (109.3) third in completions of 25-plus yards (9) and fourth in TD passes (9). He's playing some good ball right now and this offense is really tough to stop when they are taking and hitting on those deep shots in the passing game.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams will get more reps moving forward. He played just 11 snaps last week against Carolina and the Lions would like to see him get more involved in the offense.
Williams has just one catch on five targets in four games, but he said Thursday he's not worried about personal numbers while Detroit's in the fight for the playoffs in the NFC.
"I just want to win," Williams said. "Get a team win, that's my No. 1 goal. Just go out there and have fun and get a team win."
Williams said he's acclimating himself pretty well and feeling more comfortable week after week. He and Goff are getting extra reps during and after practice, and Williams is hoping that will allow him to make more of an impact the final two games of the regular season.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has described his defense as 'safety friendly' in the past, which is to say there are a lot of plays to be made for the position in his scheme.
Rookie Kerby Joseph has shown us that over the last couple months. Veteran DeShon Elliott was playing some pretty impactful football from the strong safety spot before injuring his shoulder Week 15 against the Jets.
The safeties play a big role in this defense, so it's worth monitoring the health of Elliott and Joseph this week. Campbell said Wednesday Elliott is day to day after missing the Carolina game last week. He sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday.
Joseph missed practice Wednesday due to a back injury, but did return Thursday, which was good to see.
If Elliott misses his second straight game this week against Chicago, the Lions can't have the drop-off they did last week in his absence.
"Injuries are part of this league, and it's the biggest equalizer in this league," Glenn said Thursday. "And the one thing that we try to do, and you guys heard me say this before is, everybody practices, everybody's in the meeting and everybody's expected to step up when your time is called.
"So, is it a strain? Absolutely it is because those guys don't really get all the reps they should get, and that's just how the NFL is, so in the meeting, we've got to be ready. C.J. (Moore)'s got to be ready. Iffy's (Ifeatu Melifonwu) got to be ready. If we call on those guys to have to get ready to play for us, they've got to get ready to play, but absolutely it's a strain."
The Lions signed offensive tackle Jarrid Williams to the practice squad Thursday. An undrafted free agent out of Miami in 2022, Williams was last on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad.