After three unsuccessful seasons under the staid Matt Patricia, the Detroit Lions are in the midst of a culture change. New head coach Dan Campbell is a swaggering tower of machismo and it translates to his press conferences, which have been full of interesting quotes and observations.
It’s still an open question as to whether Campbell’s approach will translate to the field, but the Lions played the 49ers pretty tough in Week 1, so we had to ask our friends at Pride of Detroit what to expect from their revamped squad. Mike Payton was kind enough to answer a few questions about what the Lions will be bringing to Lambeau Field on Monday Night Football.
Acme Packing Company: He’s given a lot of interesting sound bites and his team almost pulled off an upset against one of the darling squads in the NFL. What do you make of Dan Campbell as the Lions’ coach so far?
Mike Payton: Right now Dan Campbell has the key to the city. If Lions fans didn’t already love him, they fell head over heels after Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. It’s weird that a fan base would fall in love with a coach after a loss, but the Lions coming back and almost stealing that game showed fans something they haven’t really ever seen. A coach that doesn’t give up and a team that wouldn’t give up for their coach. Matt Patricia would have his bags packed for Green Bay in the third quarter.
APC: Outside of T.J. Hockenson, the Lions’ pass catchers are more or less a big group of unknown guys. Who should we know about?
MP: Right now it’s hard to tell. Goff threw the ball to anyone that was willing to catch it last Sunday. Kalif Raymond really came up with some big plays. Quintez Cephus did as well. But, they were pretty quiet until that comeback in the fourth quarter. Lions fans expect big things from rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown, but he was also pretty silent in Week 1.
APC: Former Packers running back Jamaal Williams had a solid debut in Week 1. What’s the fan opinion of your new running back now that he’s got a game under his belt?
MP: We knew that Williams had some talent from seeing the Lions play against him for a few years. I don’t think anyone expected he would be more than a pass catching running back in Detroit. What they got was a guy that is great between the tackles, can catch passes and is flat out hilarious to boot. I think Lions fans will look back at Williams as the team’s biggest acquisition of the offseason. I’m curious how things will work out with a less rusty D’Andre Swift going forward. The Lions may have themselves a pretty fun duo here.
APC: How do you feel the Lions match up with the Packers on defense? Where will they give the Packers trouble? Where are they weakest?
MP: The Lions’ defense had a rough outing against the 49ers. They managed to hold them to 10 points in the second half. But, by then damage had been done. I would expect Aaron Jones to punish this team on the ground early. Aaron Rodgers will get some work in too. It’s going to take the Lions defense time to figure the Packers out. Hopefully it won’t be too late again.
APC: If one player was going to make a difference for the Lions on defense, who would it be?
MP: It’s going to be Trey Flowers. He had a great game against the 49ers. Pro Football focus graded him out at 89.9 for that game. He’s not going to be a flashy guy, but he’s going to give teams trouble this season. If he can start getting to the passer, he could sneakily be one of the best players in the league at his position.
APC: What’s your pick for Monday night?
MP: All right here’s where I’m going to be called crazy. I usually like to play it safe. Playing it safe would have me taking the Packers in a rout. Me being crazy has the Lions barely winning this game 35-30. Both teams have shown that they can be scored on, so I expect this to be a high scoring game. It’s just hard for me to pick against the team that’s all in on the culture right now and might have some momentum because of it. Plus being the only one who is right if it happens has its appeal. This could very well blow up in my face.