Lions first-year offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn has a chance to be a sneaky-good hire.
The 52-year-old comes to the Motor City from Los Angeles, where he spent the last four seasons as the head coach of the Chargers. Under his watch, the Chargers went a combined 33-31, and qualified for the playoffs once (2018 season), winning a single postseason game.
He enters a situation in Detroit which is not exactly ideal for an offensive play-caller -- at least from a passing game standpoint.
The Lions will enter the 2021 campaign with a new starting signal-caller (Jared Goff) for the first time in over a decade. Plus, the team's receiving corps from a year ago was decimated by offseason departures.
Most notably, star receivers Kenny Golladay (N.Y. Giants) and Marvin Jones Jr. (Jacksonville Jaguars) each left the franchise via free agency.
Detroit general manager Brad Holmes subsequently went out and acquired Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman -- two decent receivers, but certainly not of the caliber of Golladay and Jones.
Consequently, the Lions have some noticeable holes in their receivers room.
The onus is on Lynn, as the team's OC, to mask the issues that Detroit has with its depth at the receiver position.
At this point in training camp, the offense is still a work in progress, and Goff is still trying to develop chemistry with his new set of pass-catchers.
Yet, the former L.A. Rams passer has been solid leading the way so far, according to Lions head coach Dan Campbell.
"He's been good. You can just see him from where we were in the spring to now, you can see how much more comfortable he is and how much more he has taken ownership of his offense, which is what we want," Campbell told reporters Friday.
"We want him to feel like -- listen, dialogue, communication, 'Is there something you want, or you feel like we could do better with?' We take it. Sometimes, we're like, 'No. this is why we want to do it.' He's really growing into it, and he is embracing it -- and that's what we want. We want it to become what is best for him and his vision, as well (as) ours. He's been great, he really has. You can see him grow inside the offense."
Goff growing with the offense and becoming more comfortable with it would only make Lynn's job easier. You must have a confident quarterback at the NFL level, who is confident in both his abilities and in being the leader of the offense on the field. From all accounts, Goff has exemplified this important attribute throughout camp so far.
However, for one's quarterback to succeed, you also need a competent group of receivers, and the verdict is still out on the collective talent level of Detroit's wideouts.
Goff doesn't seem to be worried, though, as evident by his comments Friday.
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“I think they’re gonna surprise a lot of people,” he said. “They’ve been fun to play with.”
From a passing-game standpoint, the biggest thing working in favor of Goff is perhaps the connection he's already made with tight end T.J. Hockenson, a Pro Bowler a season ago.
The two worked out during the offseason in California, and reportedly established a solid rapport.
Expect the Iowa product to emerge as Goff's go-to target as the season progresses.
Detroit's ground game should also benefit Goff and Lynn's offense as a whole.
D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams have the chance to be a dynamic one-two punch in the Lions' backfield, and both are expected to contribute as receivers, too.
And, a solid running game should open up the play-action pass and enhance Goff's ability to throw the football down the field at a proficient rate.
Goff told reporters Friday that he expects the deep passing game to be a component of Detroit's offensive gameplan on a weekly basis.
"It's based on what (the defense) gives us, but it's also based on what type of game we want to make it," Goff said. "For all intents and purposes, I think we expect to throw the ball down the field and we'll have some of that in the game plan every week. I hope to throw it down the field a lot this year."
If the Lions' group of receivers ends up being better than advertised and if the team's backfield is at least as good as advertised, Lynn's offense has a chance to surprise -- and in a big way.
And, it would make the Lynn hire look increasingly like a smart move made by Campbell.
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