Jared Goff's status and value as a leader have grown with his rising production and work ethic in two seasons as quarterback of the Detroit Lions.
As the Lions break after last week's minicamp, Goff feels good about how the Lions have been put together and strengthened in the offseason through free-agent signings and the draft.
The vibes around the Lions are good, as they should be. But what we've learned is that the Lions – led by Goff – expect no guarantees that they will fulfill their role as favorites to win the NFC North title.
The wins from last year's 8-2 finish for a 9-8 won-loss record do not carry over.
"We haven't done anything," Goff said during minicamp. "We won nine games last year and missed the playoffs by a game.
"We're 0-0 now and have a hell of a lot to prove this year."
Among the other things we've learned from minicamp and offseason workouts include the following:
The offseason focus on strengthening the secondary has worked; the Lions' 2023 draft class has shown it should provide production on both sides of the ball; there's some hope that the offensive line will avoid injuries – finally; and head coach Dan Campbell likes that a key player like Goff has vocalized his feelings.
We start with Goff's take on the Lions:
He understands the vibe and optimism surrounding the team as well as anyone. He also knows what it takes to win.
"I know it's exciting," he said. "I know our team's better. I know we made some key additions on defense, and even on offense in a lot of places.
"We have the guys to do it. By no means will we walk out there and be the same team we were last year that finished the season in Green Bay with a win. We need to put the work in and make sure we're ready to go.
"I'm very comfortable, but I understand, and we all understand, that we're not going to show up and win because we were good for the last 10 games last year.
"If anything, it's going to be harder. Teams are going to give us a better shot this year. We have to be prepared and approach it that way."
Secondary: It has to be proven in regular-season games, but all the signs in the offseason and minicamp indicate substantial improvement.
As Goff put it, it's 'stickier' in the secondary – meaning there is less room to complete passes.
Draft class: General manager Brad Holmes and his staff scored again, with immediate help in the first two rounds, as follows:
Running back Jahmyr Gibbs: Speed, good hands, versatility, and he plays with a quiet assurance.
Linebacker Jack Campbell: Size (6-5, 249) and movement skills made him an attractive pick. He showed that in minicamp.
Tight end Sam LaPorta: At 6-3 and 245, he can be a go-to target for Goff. He plays like an oversized wide receiver.
Defensive back Brian Branch: It's just a question of where they play him – cornerback, safety or nickel.
Offensive line: It's one of the NFL's best units, and it's healthy – for now. But hold your breath. Injuries have hit the offensive line hard.
"We didn't have our projected offensive line for one game last year," said left tackle Taylor Decker. "It seems like for two years we've been trying to get our projected offensive line on the field together."
Campbell's take on Goff's take: "We all acknowledge that it wasn't good enough," he said of last year's 9-8 record. "We all know that.
"We also acknowledge that the reason we were able to do what we did at the end of the year was because of the amount of work and focus we put into it.
"It's a reminder to our guys that we've got to go earn everything again, and then surpass it."