DETROIT (AP) – Dan Campbell is taking over a team that isn’t expected to win much this year and runs a franchise that has been synonymous with losing in the NFL for the past few decades.
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It was nearly 30 years since the Lions won the NFL title in 1957, their only playoff win, and they saw the league’s first 0-16 season in 2008. Detroit dropped 33 games in the past three years. « Obviously, it has been a long time lacking success, » said quarterback Jared Goff. « We hope we can change that. »
The Lions have redesigned the front office, coaching staff and cadre, but outside of the organization this has not given them great hopes. However, Campbell plans to prove people wrong, and so do his players.
« That’s our DNA, » said Campbell. “I don’t think it’s a secret that none of us expect us to do a lot.” Rookie general manager Brad Holmes rebuilt the squad with the youth and started the season with just four players aged 30 and over.
« We not only have the players, but the coaches too, boasting a little young, » said Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow. « They know expectations may be low.
The Niners won just six games last season – a year after reaching the Super Bowl – as injuries sent some of their best players to the sidelines.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo missed 10 games due to ankle problems. Tight end George Kittle was out half of the season after injuring his shoulder. Defensive end Nick Bosa suffered an end-of-season knee injury in Week 2. When San Francisco traded three first-round picks to design Trey Lance # 3 overall, it left Garoppolo’s long-term future in doubt about the franchise. Trainer Kyle Shanahan firmly believes Garoppolo will remain the starter as Lance, who has a finger injury, joins the NFL in situations that make him succeed.
« Jimmy had such a sharp offseason as since I’ve been with him, « said Shanahan.
Bosa, Defensive Rookie of the Year 2019, appears to be stronger than it was before he went down early last year.
» Very few people come from a tough one Injury and are better than they were when they left, « said Trent Williams. “I played Nick before he left, and I played when he came back and he was better.”
Iowa will be well represented with two of the top tight ends in the league: Kittle and Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson.
The Niners discovered a gem in the 2017 design, selected Kittle in the fifth round and saw him all-pro two years later. It only took Kittle 47 games to hit 3,000 yards, a pace only Hall of Famers Mike Ditka and Kellen Winslow Sr. under the tight ends of league history left behind.
The Lions initially invested more in Hockenson and ranked him # 8 overall in 2019, and it has paid off. He led all of the NFC tight ends with 723 yards received last season, had 67 receptions and six touchdowns to earn Pro Bowl honors.
Both teams have rookie defensive coordinators who are former NFL players and will be making calls for the first time in a game.
After Robert Saleh left to run the New York Jets, the Niners promoted 37-year-old linebacker coach DeMeco Ryans.
As Campbell last winter first recruiting an NFL coaching staff, he gave Aaron Glenn the chance to become coordinator after his collaboration in New Orleans.
The Lions had one of the worst defenses in league history last year, opening the season against one dynamic and balanced offensive that has lots of pre-snap moves to provide distraction.
« Our guys are looking forward to this challenge and I’m looking forward to it, » said Glenn. “I’m on fire.”
Garoppolo is 22-8 years old in the regular season since he was transferred from New England, and he helped San Francisco win the 2019 NFC Championship. The Niners are 7-27 with other quarterbacks under Shanahan since 2017.
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