The Lions only won five games last year, but it wasn't all bad in Detroit. Punter Jack Fox, center Frank Ragnow and tight end T.J. Hockenson made the Pro Bowl. Defensive end Romeo Okwara was an impact performer on an underwhelming unit.
There are some good things to build on from last season for new general manager Brad Holmes and new head coach Dan Campbell. Here's a look at five numbers the Lions need to keep up or continue to improve on in 2021:
1. Number: 4.6
What it means: Average yards per carry for running back D’Andre Swift
NFL rank: Third among rookie running backs
Twentyman: Swift's average also ranked in the top 18 among all running backs with at least 100 carries last season. His 10 touchdowns were fourth most by a rookie. Swift is the eighth player in NFL history to accumulate at least 500 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 350 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns within his first 13 career games. He's expected to have a big impact in Detroit's offense in year two running behind what could be one of the better offensive lines in the league.
View some of the best photos from Lions offseason workouts, OTAs and rookie minicamp.
2. Number: 44.8
What it means: Net punting average
NFL rank: 2nd
Twentyman: Fox had a terrific first season in the NFL and he expects to be even better in 2021. Fox's gross punting average of 49.1 ranked third, but I think teams value the net number more because it incorporates the coverage aspect into it, and is really a team stat that involves all 11 players. The Lions have retained some of their best special teams cover men this offseason, so the expectation is for Detroit to continue to be one of the better punting and coverage units in the league.
3. Number: 61.0
What it means: Combined quarterback knockdowns and hurries for Okwara
NFL rank: 14th
Twentyman: Most people focus on just the sacks when it comes to edge rushers, and Okwara's 10.0 sacks last season did rank 10th in the NFL, but an edge player's impact can also be gauged on how often he affects the quarterback. Okwara had 18.0 knockdowns and 43.0 hurries last season. Add the sack total to those numbers and he affected the quarterback 71.0 times last year. He also led all defensive ends with 10 tackles for loss. Okwara signed a big contract extension this offseason, and the expectation is for him to have even more of an impact in new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn's scheme.
4. Number: 0
What it means: Sacks allowed by Ragnow last season
NFL rank: Tied for 1st
Twentyman: Ragnow became the fourth Lions center to make a Pro Bowl and first since Kevin Glover in 1997. Along with not allowing a sack in 2020, Ragnow did not commit a false start penalty and was only flagged for two penalties in 14 games. In 45 career games, all starts, he has only surrendered 6.0 sacks and been flagged for 12 penalties.
5. Number: 723
What it means: Receiving yards for Hockenson in 2020
NFL rank: 3rd among tight ends
Twentyman: Only Travis Kelce and Darren Waller had more receiving yards at the tight end position last year than Hockenson. He's emerged as one of the bright young players at the position and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last year. He's built a pretty good rapport with quarterback Jared Goff this offseason, and the expectation is for Hockenson to improve on all his numbers from last season and be a big weapon for Detroit's offense.