Optimism is in the air for Lions fans going into next season, with Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell giving fans a product worth watching for the first time since Caldwell was shoved out the door. There are key pieces on both offense and defense that could prove to be studs, and breaking down which of those players will prove it is a great exercise. This article focuses on the Lions and gives players awards, much like they do for the entire NFL (MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, etc.)
Coach of The Year: Aaron Glenn
The easy and most obvious answer here is Dan Campbell, but we are giving the nod to the Lions defensive coordinator, Aaron Glenn. Glenn was dealt a bad hand last year, yet still showed flashes of excellence while calling plays for the Detroit defense. While the stats don’t show much improvement last year, placing 29 in yards allowed and 31 in points allowed. The reason for this placement is the way that Aaron Glenn brought together the defense. It felt as if the players were a unit rather than a group of individuals. The energy that Glenn brought to the defense was never seen under Lions former head coach Matt Patricia. Bringing in rookies like Defense End Aiden Hutchinson, Defensive End Josh Paschal, Safety Kerby Joseph, Linebackers Malcolm Rodriguez and James Houston and Cornerback Chase Lucas gives Glenn a lot of flexibility with personnel. Add in the signing of Safety Deshon Elliot and the return of Safety Tracy Walker and Defensive End Charles Harris, Glenn now has the capability of turning the defense into a top unit in the NFL.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jeff Okudah
Lions Cornerback Jeff Okudah is in his prove it or lose it year with the Lions. Even with his 2021 season being cut short in Week 1 due to a torn achilles, Okudah hasn’t proved much in his time in Detroit. In 2020, Okudah finished with a PFF grade of 42.5, and allowed 38 catches on 50 targets. Simply put, Okudah has seriously underacheived, but there is reason for hope in this upcoming year. Okudah was drafted under Matt Patricia, and was thrown into a terrible situation. He was regularly facing top end wide receivers like Davante Adams and Deandre Hopkins in his first games. Now that he’s learning under Aaron Glenn I expect to see improvement. There was a reason that this guy went number three overall as he has a great frame, sweet agility and quickness, fantastic feet, and is good in man, zones and press. All things considered Jeff Okudah is the prime candidate to break out this year if he can stay healthy.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jameson Williams
With the Lions only drafting two offensive players this year, it comes as no surprise that my offensive rookie of the year choice is wide reciever Jameson Williams. While at Alabama, Williams showed elite deep threat and playmaking ability last season, although it was eventually cut short in the National Championship game where Williams tore his ACL. Nevertheless, Williams was a major threat when on the field, and he’ll be a weapon for head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to use in 2022. Upon returning from injury, look for him to be an immediate X receiver, with an extensive route tree. If Goff can deliver the football where he wants it, have no doubt that Jameson Williams will be a premier rookie in the NFL.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aiden Hutchinson
If your number two overall draftee isn’t in the running for rookie of the year, there might be something wrong. Michigan native, Aiden Hutchinson, is certainly in the running for defensive rookie of the year and he’s my prediction for Lions defensive rookie of the year. Hutchinson made teams fall in love with him with his massive 6’6 frame, off the charts strength, never give up attitude and multiple pass rush moves. Hutchinson will slot in as a defensive end opposite of Romeo Okwara, and the duo will hopefully live in opposing teams backfield’s. Expect Hutchinson to step in immediately and be an impact player from the first snap.
Offensive Player of the Year: Penei Sewell
The 2021 seventh overall pick has the world ahead of him. Lions right tackle Penei Sewell is set up for his breakout season this year. The Lions have a top three offensive line in the league and Sewell is a big part of that. He finished with a PFF grade of 77, ranking him 23rd among tackles at just 20 years of age. With another year of experience comes improvement, and with a better offense to boot it’s easy to see Sewell jump in the conversation of top tackles in the league.
Defensive Player of the Year: Amani Oruwariye
This award was easily the hardest to pick, but eventually the cornerback from Penn State shined through. Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye has everything needed to build upon his breakout season. Oruwariye has consistently proven critics wrong. After being drafted in the fifth round, Oruwariye has defied the odds, now being recognized as a premier corner in the NFL. Oruwariye has made a name for himself as a ball hawk corner, with six interceptions last season. However he can do much more than that as he is fantastic in coverage, and his large frame helps him guard bigger receivers. If he’s given the chance to guard the opposition’s top receivers, Oruwariye has the opportunity to launch himself into top ten cornerback discussions.
Most Valuble Player: Amon-Ra St. Brown
In the last six games of last season Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown recorded 560 or his 912 yards on the season. If that consistency rolls into this season make no mistake St. Brown will be the Lions MVP. Something connected between Lions quarterback Jared Goff and St. Brown in those last six games, and Dan Campbell recognized it. St. Brown was used as a swiss army knife, lining up in the backfield, slot, and outside in various levels. There were comparisons made between how Campbell used St. Brown as 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan used Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel, as both St. Brown and Samuel are offensive weapons used as utility pieces in various schemes on offense. If the connection between Goff and St. Brown is still in full effect heading into 2022, expect St. Brown to record over 1200 total yards.