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The new era of the Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the first half on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

By Connor Lannen

Detroit has always been a sports town, however, the last few years it has been excruciating to be a Detroit sports fan. 

In 2019, the four major Detroit sports teams suffered an abysmal record of 67-159-4 and the only team to make the playoffs were the Pistons, who were swept in the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“Overall Detroit sports aren’t in the best place right now but the future does look bright,” tweeted Jake VanderPloeg, owner of popular Detroit sports Twitter account @vs_everybody.

While it may take a few more years of rebuilding for Detroit teams to win the first championship since the 2008 Red Wings, it does seem that there is some light at the end of the tunnel for fans. This light is in the young and new players that are now in the Motor City.

The Lions have never won a Super Bowl and have not won a playoff game since 1991. With that being said,  Lions fans, always hold the attitude that “this year will be different.” It is difficult to say whether the Lions will ever be a team to put championship aspirations into, however, they do have some young talent that have fueled some sort of hope surrounding the team.

The Detroit team that looked the most ready to be a force in their respected league, coming into this year, were The Detroit Lions. Six weeks into the season and Detroit fans are heavily doubting those aspirations that were placed into the Lions at the start of the season.

“As of right now, I’m not very confident in the Lions with Patricia as our coach,” VanderPloeg said. That seems to be the theme around Detroit as a very promising team going into the season, is sitting with a 2-3 record although they have held large leads in all five of the games thus far. 

Matt Patricia is without a doubt on the “hot seat” as the coach that took over for a 9-7 Lions team under Jim Caldwell, holds an abysmal 11-25-1 record in his third year as the head coach of the Lions. 

The Lions fan base seems to be under a mostly universal perception that Patricia is not going to be the coach that takes the Lions to the next level. With that being said, it feels as if they hold the largest amount of young and new talent that they have had in a long time.

“D’Andre Swift is a stud already as a rookie, Kenny Golladay is in his fourth year but has proven himself to be one of the best wide receivers in the league,” VanderPloeg said. “Frank Ragnow is young and already establishing himself as a top center. Jeffrey Okudah was a high selection in this year’s draft and he’s had his struggles but I really think he’ll be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in the coming years.

Swift is the player that most Lions fans are holding their excitement around. The 2nd round running back pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, Swift has an immense amount of talent and has fans talking like he will be the running back of the Lions future. 

Last Sunday, the Lions beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-16. The Jaguars are looked at as one of the worst teams in the NFL so it is difficult to put too much stock into the most recent win. Although it is difficult to give the team much credit for the win, there were many young players that emerged in the win.

Swift ran for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns, becoming the first Lions rookie to run for 100+ yards and two touchdowns since the all-time great, Barry Sanders. A new acquisition from the New England Patriots, Duron Harmon, had an interception. Golladay had over 100 receiving yards. Another former New England Patriot who signed with the Lions in the offseason, Jamie Collins, played well at linebacker.

“I think T.J. Hockenson is a great player and if the Lions could figure out how to use him right, I think he could be right up there with the elite tight ends, such as Travis Kelce and George Kittle,” said Gavin Colegrove, a 20-year-old Grand Valley State University student as and a lifelong Lions fan.

“It is hard to get excited about the Lions with their history and how they seem to always let me down, but there are some very exciting players new to the team,” Colegrove said. “Hockensen, Swift, Golladay, Trey Flowers, the Okwara brothers are all players that have the potential to really make a name for themselves in Detroit.”

Detroit has had some “diamond in the rough players”, establishing themselves this season. “Tracy Walker is someone everyone should look at on defense, he has a lot of potential and is probably the best player on our defense right now.” VanderPloeg said. Walker was a third round pick in 2018 out of Louisiana Tech, he has trampled his expectations this season and is beginning to become a premier NFL player.

After this week’s win against Jacksonville, Lions fans confidence in the team has risen slightly from under 20% after week six to nearly 30% of fans saying that they are confident in the direction of the team after week seven. At the beginning of the season that confidence meter was close to 80%

“I don’t really have expectations for the Lions to even make the playoffs this year so I’m just going to focus on the new players and hope that they can build some sort of a base around them,” Colegrove said.

Clearly, with the staggering drop in team confidence, the 2020 season has not started ideally, however, that close to 80% mark at the start of the season shows how much stock the Lions fans were putting into the new players.

Over the next few weeks the Detroit Lions will have many opportunities to show off their new recruits. Life is hard as a fan of the Detroit Lions and to avoid driving yourself into insanity it is important to look at the players that could potentially bring the first Super Bowl to the Motor City. Regardless of the outcome of the remainder of the season, many of the players discussed above will be fun to watch as they try to establish themselves in Detroit as well as the NFL.