The Falcons saw the Lions less than a calendar year ago, when they hosted Detroit in the cozy confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Decked out in their throwback black uniforms, Atlanta squeaked out a win over Tim Boyle and company in a welcome victory, albeit one that was rough to watch at times.
Both teams have sought to make major improvements since the last time they clashed. You’re very familiar with the Falcons, of course, but you may not have paid attention to what the Lions added to their roster. Let’s take a closer look.
WR D.J. Chark
WR Jameson Williams
RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai
DE Aidan Hutchinson
DT Michael Brockers
LB Alex Anzalone
CB Mike Hughes
S DeShon Elliott
K Austin Seibert
KR/WR Kalif Raymond
The Lions still don’t have quarterback solved, but they’re not trying to build a Midwestern Rome in a day, so to speak. What they are focusing on is building up the rest of the roster, and they had a productive offseason in that regard.
Jameson Williams has the chance to be the best non-Drake London receiver in the draft, and D.J. Chark is a big target with untapped upside who figures to step right in and produce for Detroit. That’s a great tandem to add to an offense that already features DeAndre Swift and Jamaal Williams at running back, plus T.J. Hockenson at tight end. The foundation is there for the next franchise quarterback, especially because the offensive line has some quality pieces.
DE Trey Flowers
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
WR KhaDarel Hodge (hey, he’s a Falcon!)
Honestly, the Lions didn’t suffer any massive losses. Flowers was coming off two straight tough sesons, Reeves-Maybin was solid but isn’t irreplaceable, and Hodge is a loss on special teams rather than a major one on offense.
Are the Lions better than they the last time Atlanta saw them?
Emphatically yes, in large part because for all his flaws, Jared Goff is a better quarterback than Tim Boyle. But Brad Holmes, who was one of the two finalists for the Falcons’ general manager job, has done a strong job re-building a Detroit squad that was an absolute mess by the time the last regime was shoved out the door.
I’ll be particularly interested to see Hutchinson, a player who would be a truly terrifying pass rusher, and what kind of second-year improvement we can expect from 2021 surprise Amon-Ra St. Brown. Like the Falcons, the Lions are probably a year or two away from truly contending, but they are a team heading in the right direction, and should be an interesting challenge for Atlanta Friday night.