Johnson believes that continuity and experience will help the Lions succeed, despite last year’s high score. Nailing the execution and the fundamentals, Johnson believes, could end up being the difference.
“We have to execute better than what we did,” he said. “And we did a lot of nice things a year ago, and it doesn’t really mean anything until this year. We have to be a lot better in terms of execution, and we should be because we should know what the problems (are) ) for the plays we’re running now — run plays, protection, passing concepts.
“And so I personally expect a big step forward in terms of growth, the knowledge base of our players, the experience that they have now. And so the focus has been on fundamentals.”
Johnson didn’t just study his offensive linemen. He looked inward at his own coaching efforts and sees potential for improvement there as well.
“If there’s one thing I would say for me a year ago, it’s that maybe I micromanaged a little bit too much, just to make sure we were all on the same page about what the vision was,” Johnson said. “Now that we’ve been together for a year – and we have some new coaches – I have a lot more confidence.
Although much of the offensive core remains intact from a year ago, one position will feature notable changes. The Lions moved on from free agent Jamaal Williams and traded for D’Andre Swift over the weekend. They will be replaced by David Montgomery, who was acquired from the Bears, and Jahmyr Gibbs, who was unexpectedly drafted by Detroit with the 12th overall pick.
There could be some overlap, skill, in this year’s squad. But Johnson believes the Lions are capable of more explosive games this season.
“Some of the runs we might have explosives,” Johnson said. “We could have had 8-9 yards when we were still in the 3-4, so just a few things looking back at last year.
If Johnson is right and the Lions are somehow better offensively in a season where they have some of their biggest expectations in years, the good news is that the team could be in line for its first playoff appearance in seven years. The bad news for Detroit? Another team might want to poach Johnson to fire their entire football team after this season.