1.) Three players have retired from the Lions the past couple of seasons. What do you make of John Penisini calling it quits?
Vito Chirco: I think it just speaks volumes that the National Football League is the “Not For Long” league.
In the case of Penisini, here’s a guy that suited up for 32 games out of a possible 33 in two seasons in the league. And, even though he was a rotational defensive lineman on the Lions in 2022, he realized it wasn’t worth it to continue to subject himself to constant physical pain by an NFL player.
It has been reported that Penisini had calcium deposits in its shoulders, as big as a softball of size, going into the 2021 season. So, I give him credit for calling it quits before he did physical harm to his body.
Adam Strozynski: I find the timing very curious and shocking. This was a guy who had an opportunity to be a rotational player. Granted, he was an end-of-the-roster guy.
I think when it comes down to it, you have to love it. Like really love and live football at this level. Some guys find out they don’t love it that much when they get to the NFL.
2.) What are you most confident about in the 2022 Detroit Lions?
Chirco: I’m most confident about the team’s offensive line, led by Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell. If those three guys stay healthy over the course of the full season or at least for the majority of it, the O-line will be in real good shape. And subsequently, it should allow Detroit’s ground game, spearheaded by D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, to improve upon its 2021 numbers.
So, I’m very excited about this position group and believe it can be a strength of the team in 2022.
Strozynski: I am most confident that this wide receiving corps is dramatically better than it was last year.
Heading into the 2021 season, the wideouts were the weakest position on the team. This year, you guys have some NFL players that will start on the Super Bowl-caliber teams.
3.) What are you least confident about this season?
Chirco: I ‘m going to say the linebackers. I don’t see a bonafide starting linebacker among the group of Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Jarrad Davis, Chris Board and Malcolm Rodriguez. As of right now, I think each of the aforementioned individuals is better suited for a reserve role. And, that doesn’t bode well for a unit that has already struggled a season ago.
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Strozynski: I’m at least confident in the quarterbacks and linebackers.
Last season, Jared Goff looked like he was the 35th-best quarterback in the league. Meaning, you had backups that were better than him. I think he has more weapons, but I don’t trust him to be much better in 2022.
Meanwhile, the linebacking unit was not upgraded through free agency, and you are looking to add late-round rookies into the mix. As the 2021 season unfolded, it was clear the linebacker was in a position that needed help. I don’t think this team did enough to upgrade the position.
4.) After a week of minicamp, what did you learn about the Lions?
Chirco: The Lions have a competitive bunch. For starters, Aidan Hutchinson is an ultra confident dude who believes he can play in any kind of defensive scheme. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of anyone going into his first season as a pro, and it’s been interesting to see him go head-to-head with Detroit’s offensive line.
Also, there has been a high degree of competition among members of the Lions’ linebackers and receivers groups.
There is no clear-cut best player for the team at the linebacker, and the Lions hope that leads to a higher level of play among the individuals at the position. Then, at receiver, there is an immense level of competition, with Quintez Cephus and Trinity Benson seemingly already competing for the team’s last receiver spot.
All in all, it has been noticeable that Detroit has a hungry group of players. And, these individuals are motivated to take on the next step in their respective carers and to prove that they will not be pushovers this upcoming season.
Strozynski: This is a team that is looking to take on the identity of guys who eat, breathe and live football.
Basically, if you are not looking to get better and about that football life, go home.
5.) Who is your favorite assistant coach on the Lions’ staff?
Chirco: I’m going to go with Detroit wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El. I’m a big fan of his personality, and I feel like he has a chance to help the team’s receivers room, which is much improved from last year, taking the next step.
A receiving unit comprised of DJ Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams, and coached up by Randle El, seem like it’s a solid shot of being successful.
Strozynski: Ben Johnson. He seems like a guy I would love to play for. It takes what you say and works into a gameplan to help you and your team better.
Additionally, Johnson doesn’t come off as an arrogant, know-it-all.
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