American Football

Beware of spring NFL headlines: Detroit Lions stories that never panned out

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Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

We pulled some of our own receipts to remind you: Don’t believe everything you hear in the spring.

As the Detroit Lions conclude OTAs this week, with the young players still in town, now is a good time to remind people that this is the time of year in which optimism overflows.

Now, for a team like Detroit who came as close as they ever have to making the Super Bowl last year, optimism is certainly warranted. On paper, their roster is better than last year’s club, and with so much continuity among the coaching staff, it’s fair to believe that Detroit’s young roster will simply improve with time.

But all it takes is a trip back to 2023 to recognize that some of the players or positions that are being hyped this time of year will never live up to that potential. And we are certainly not immune from that overhype.

Here’s a look back at some of the stories we published around this time that did not age well at all.

June 27, 2023 — Jerry Jacobs predicts ‘dominant’ secondary for Detroit Lions in 2023

I bought into the offseason hype in the secondary, as did Jacobs—who was competing for a starting job at the time. Now to be fair, this secondary was derailed by injuries early and often. Emmanuel Moseley never got a chance to make an impact while C.J. Gardner-Johnson missed almost the entire regular season. Still, this is a good reminder that plans can go askew in a hurry.

June 26, 2023 — Lions defensive coach: Healthy Charles Harris will make defense ‘much better’

Charles Harris had quite the promising season in 2021 with Detroit but was never able to reproduce that kind of production. While injuries were used as a scapegoat for a down 2022 season, it turns out even a healthy Charles Harris was losing his effectiveness. He ended up losing his starting job quickly in 2023 and was a healthy inactive down the stretch.

May 29, 2023 — TE James Mitchell is the Detroit Lions’ best kept secret

Even after the Lions drafted Sam LaPorta, there was reason to believe Mitchell could be in for a Year 2 breakout season. With the torn ACL now two years in the rear-view mirror, 2023 was going to be a big developmental year for him. Just ask tight ends coach Steve Heiden.

“I’m excited to get him his second year off the ACL. I think that’s an important year to grow and develop. I think there’s a lot of room to grow for him.”

Mitchell ended up being the team’s TE3, playing just 157 offensive snaps and catching only two passes.

June 28, 2022 — Detroit Lions fans believe Jeff Okudah will have biggest bounceback year of injured players

To be fair, y’all were coerced into this one a bit. The poll asked which player returning from injury will have the best 2022 season. The options: Jeff Okudah (38%), Jameson Williams (35%), Romeo Okwara (18%), Jerry Jacobs (7%), and James Mitchell (2%). In truth, none of those players had a great 2022 season, with Jacobs likely being the best of the group.

May 27, 2021 — Jahlani Tavai down 17 pounds, catching the eye of DC Aaron Glenn

It was always a long shot for Tavai to catch on with the Lions’ new coaching staff back in 2021. He was built like an entirely different kind of linebacker than the one Glenn values. Still, credit Tavai for doing everything he could to adapt. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the team. That said, he has gone on to have a nice few years with the Patriots.

Now, this isn’t to say that everything said in May and June shouldn’t be trusted. In 2022, we had early signs that Malcolm Rodriguez could be much better than his draft position and that the linebacker room was better than advertised. In 2023, Sam LaPorta and Brian Branch were both already making strong impressions in OTAs and minicamp.

The point is that it can sometimes be difficult to sift through fact and fiction this time of year. And while it’s okay to be optimistic about anything before training camp, just know that it’s unlikely that every single one of the promising developments through OTAs will pan out.

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