Chris Spielman: Lions Embrace Being 'The Hunted'

Why Lions aren't running from high expectations in 2024.
Chris Spielman, special assistant to the owner and CEO for the Detroit Lions walks off the field after practice.
Chris Spielman, special assistant to the owner and CEO for the Detroit Lions walks off the field after practice. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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The Detroit Lions know their journey to a second-consecutive NFC North title will not be an easy one. Each of their divisional opponents have made efforts to strengthen their roster with hopes of dethroning the Lions after their strong 2023 campaign.

While each of the divisional opponents have made significant moves, including two of the teams drafting young quarterbacks, the Lions are not running from the expectations facing them ahead of the 2024 season.

Instead of resting on their laurels, the Lions have also hit the ground running in the offseason with several marquee additions. Nose tackle DJ Reader and cornerback Carlton Davis are new defensive weapons, as is first-round draft pick Terrion Arnold.

To fill the void of departed offensive guard Jonah Jackson, Detroit added another veteran to one of the league's best units in Kevin Zeitler.

These moves, and this mindset, comes partially from Dan Campbell's desire to keep the organization trending up. On a recent episode of CBS Sports' 'With The First Pick,' Lions' Special Assistant to the Owner Chris Spielman explained why the Lions have so passionately pursued upgrades after their first division title since 1993.

“It’s his edge, man," Spielman explained. "Hey well, ‘Chicago’s gonna be better,’ and they are, they very well maybe. ‘Green Bay’s gonna be better,’ very well may be. ‘Minnesota will be better.’ That’s great, what are we? Apparently we’ll just stay in place and let everybody catch us? And you embrace the tag of being the hunted, which is awesome. You embrace that, you don’t run away from that.”

Changes to offseason schedule

Reports surfaced earlier this offseason that the NFLPA could be considering changes to the league's offseason schedule. Instead of the current format, which allows for time away from the facility following teams' spring workouts, the calendar could be flipped.

In the new proposed schedule, players would get time off following the Draft, and the team workouts would lead directly into training camp after beginning at a later point.

While some have spoke out against this, Spielman seemed in favor of a similar structure. As a former player, he recalled the difficulties of his era requiring three-a-day practices. While he doesn't see a need to return to that exact format, he outlined his belief that changing the timeline could wind up being safer for the players.

“I’m not advocating going back to that but I am advocating, let’s lead into training camp where these guys are in shape," Spielman said. "I do think you would prevent a ton of injuries in training camp if guys are acclimated four weeks before, even, we start training camp through OTAs, meetings, lifting, nutrition, your trainers and doctors and PTs are already here. It just makes sense. Everybody tries to over think things, if it’s common sense, it’s common sense.” 

Draft philosophy

The Lions have drawn plenty of praise for their success in the Draft since Holmes and Campbell took over. While their process is very thorough and a true team effort involving the plethora of scouts, Spielman explained why the core of their philosophy is somewhat simple.

Rather than diving into complexities of positional value and other factors, the Lions have a base criteria for players they target. Among the desired characteristics are reliability, competitiveness, instincts and athletic ability.

Once those characteristics come together, the Lions feel more compelled to target players that fit their mold rather than base it off of need.

“When you put all those three things together and you find out that they’re reliable, and you find out that they’re not idiots off the field, then you keep it simple," Spielman stated. "Brad’s big on this, and I’m big on this too, you don’t worry about the position. You just draft the player. For example, Jahmyr, everybody when we drafted Jahmyr 12th overall, everybody said, ‘Oh my gosh, you took a running back.’ Well, yeah we did but Jahmyr is gonna be much more than a running back."

Gibbs is a prime example of the Lions' success in the Draft. Though the pick was panned by many at the time it happened, he proved to be an impact player. Because he showed the desired traits, and offers flexibility, it made the decision an easy one for the Lions as they look to maximize their offensive talent.

"It’s been reported that he’s got some wide receiver skills, so he’s a matchup nightmare," Spielman explained. "So you’re drafting a football player and you’re drafting a running back that can also be a little bit of a slot guy. So you’re drafting a guy that’s a problem. That’s when Brad, you ever see those shirts that say ‘Villain?’ Well, Jahmyr can be a villain for other teams.” 


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Christian Booher

CHRISTIAN BOOHER

Sports journalist who has covered the Detroit Lions the past three NFL seasons. Christian brings expert analysis, insights and an ability to fairly assess how the team is performing in a tough NFC North division.