Not long before the 2022 season started, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was not assured of acting as the team’s play-caller. He has operated within that role this season, and the unit’s performance has reportedly caused many around the league to take notice in him.
In a breakdown of emerging head coaching candidates, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post names Johnson as a staffer generating considerable buzz around the league. Johnson’s Lions have been surprisingly efficient on offense, ranking in the top eight in the league in both total and scoring offense (averaging 374 yards and 25 points per game). Their pass game has been far more effective than many expected, especially with first-round rookie wideout Jameson Williams still yet to make his debut.
On the ground, Detroit has put up just shy of 130 rushing yards per game on average; that figure comes as somewhat striking given the limited usage top running back D’Andre Swift has seen as he continues to battle nagging injuries. It represents a reflection, in the eyes of many executives and evaluators, of Johnson’s creativity from a schematic standpoint – something which “quite possibly” could put him in the conversation for a HC gig as early as this coming cycle.
The 36-year-old was promoted from tight ends coach to OC this offseason as the Lions’ replacement for Anthony Lynn. It remained unclear for months after that expected decision, however, if he or head coach Dan Campbell would handle play-calling duties. The decision to give that responsibility to Johnson has paid clear dividends for Detroit, which sits at 4-7 despite fielding the league’s lowest-ranked defense. Especially when Williams is able to suit up, the degree to whish Johnson will be able to maintain the offense’s effectiveness will be worth watching as the season winds down.
A number of assistants have had their names floated around for the upcoming cycle, one in which Carolina and Indianapolis will be conducting full searches for permanent bench bosses. Other teams will likely be on the lookout for new hires as well; despite his lack of experience compared to top candidate Sean Payton, Johnson could very well be on the radar to land with one such squad this winter.