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2022 Breakout Candidates for Lions

Read more on the Detroit Lions' breakout candidates headed into the 2022 NFL season.

A new season means a new chance to "break out" for the Detroit Lions.

In 2021, first-year head coach Dan Campbell saw the emergence of rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown on offense. Defensively, nomadic veteran Charles Harris settled in with his third team, and became a force late in the year for the Lions.

Now, new players will get chances to emerge within the team’s schemes. Much of Detroit’s energy was focused on bringing back free agents from last season’s team, though there were some outside additions made.

Here are four players on the verge of a breakout season in 2022.

QB Jared Goff

Tabbing a signal-caller who already has two seasons with 4,600 passing yards as a breakout candidate may not be the most expected answer. Yet, the pieces are there for him to be much improved in his second year as a Lion.

After spending most of 2021 becoming acclimated to the team, Goff finished with 11 touchdowns, against two interceptions, after Campbell took over play-calling duties in Week 10.

With St. Brown back in tow and a pair of big additions in free-agent signing DJ Chark and first-round draft pick Jameson Williams, Goff will have options. There’s also prized young tight end T.J. Hockenson, giving him yet another big target.

Heading into his age-28 season, Goff is at a crucial juncture. The Lions are primed to be active in the quarterback market if he doesn’t succeed, but the weapons are there for the former Ram to be successful in Detroit.

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WR Quintez Cephus

The Wisconsin product got off to a nice start in 2021, catching 15 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns over the season’s first five games. In that fifth game, a stunning loss to Minnesota, Cephus, however, suffered a season-ending broken collarbone.

Expected to be back healthy for the duration of 2022, Cephus is expected to take a step forward. Williams is recovering from an ACL injury, so the 24-year-old Cephus will get an extensive look early in the season.

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Cephus is good as a downfield threat, while not having blazing speed. He’s sturdy and physical, giving him a big catch radius on 50-50 passes.

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DT Alim McNeill

McNeill is coming off a strong finish to his rookie campaign in 2021. Drafted in the third round out of N.C. State, he finished with 39 tackles and two sacks.

In year two, there will be more talent on the defensive line that opponents will have to account for. A natural run stuffer, McNeill should succeed in more one-on-one opportunities, as the Lions transition to more four-down looks.

Paired on the inside with fellow second-year tackle Levi Onwuzurike, McNeill will look to take a step forward in 2022. He finished with six starts in 2021, and played around 50 percent of Detroit’s defensive snaps over the course of the season.

His role will increase as Detroit gets younger on the defensive interior. Look for him to be an emerging presence in 2022.

S DeShon Elliott

Injuries have been a constant problem in the NFL career of Elliott, who signed with Detroit in the offseason after four seasons with the Ravens. In those four years, he played a full season just once, and twice logged only six games.

In 2021, he played and started in six games, before suffering a torn pec that ended his season. He comes to Detroit looking to start opposite Tracy Walker III, a role he should hold if his health is in order.

If his bill of health can stay clean throughout the season, Elliott has the potential to be a massive hit in his first season with Detroit. He forced four fumbles in 2020, which was his only full season as a pro. 

The Lions need another play-making presence in that secondary. If he can stay healthy, Elliott can be just that.