The Detroit Lions hold their first of 10 allotted organized team activity practices on Monday, so it seemed like a good time for another Twitter mailbag. Let’s get to your questions.
A reason why the Lions will exceeded expectations and a reason why they will fall below expectations? — @curseofthegooch
If the Lions are going to exceed expectations this fall – I had them at 7-9 in my way-too-early predictions, which is a half-win higher than their Vegas over-under win total – I think it will be because of improved play by Matthew Stafford and the offense.
Stafford is coming off a down season in which he threw for less than 4,000 yards for the first time since 2010, but he’s a better player than his stats last year indicate. The Lions will rely more heavily on the running game under new coordinator Darrell Bevell, and if Kerryon Johnson is as good as he appeared through 10 games last year, that should open things up for Stafford downfield. If Stafford can recapture some of his 2016 magic, the Lions could push for a playoff spot.
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On the flip side, since expectations aren’t too high to begin with, something disastrous might have to happen for the Lions to surprise in a bad way. Let’s take injuries out of the equation, because that’s too obvious an answer. But if the Lions repeat their six-win season or worse, I suspect their secondary will be a major culprit. The Lions are relying on the unproven Tracy Walker as their No. 2 safety and counting on a bounce-back year from Rashaan Melvin at the second outside cornerback spot. Both could deliver, and hopes are especially high for Walker. But a team that managed just seven interceptions last season is taking a big leap of faith.
What’s your view of the “unofficial depth chart” for the right guard position? — @PatBerWA
The Lions seem mostly set with their starters right now, with one big exception at the right guard spot. I’d make Kenny Wiggins a slight favorite over Oday Aboushi to win the job, but that’s before seeing Aboushi in pads.
Wiggins started 10 games last season in place of T.J. Lang and has a history with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson as the two spent time together with the Chargers before coming to Detroit. Aboushi signed a one-year free-agent deal this offseason. He’s been a part-time starter for most of his NFL career over four stops, and he played for Bevell with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017.
It wouldn’t surprise if either player won the job.
Tyrell Crosby is in the mix, too, but I see the second-year lineman more as the Lions’ swing tackle right now and think he could eventually replace Rick Wagner on the right side. Undrafted rookie Beau Benzschawel should compete with Joe Dahl for the other interior backup job.
Why are the lions sitting on all that money? Obviously they are in win now mode and there are upgrades out there. I think BQ suffers from smartest guy in the room syndrome. — @james31282
I got several versions of this question this week, with some wondering if the Lions are planning to trade for Jadeveon Clowney or any wide receiver. According to the latest NFLPA salary cap report, the Lions have about $27 million in cap space, though that number will come down once all nine of the team’s draft picks are accounted for. After rookie signings and with money put aside for regular in-season roster maneuverings, the Lions still should have some $17 million in available cap room.
When I wondered aloud this spring if the Lions had another big move coming, I was reminded that teams have both cap and cash budgets to deal with. The Lions paid a lot of money to Trey Flowers and T.J. Hockenson and some of their other additions in bonuses, and they might have another contract extension coming with Graham Glasgow this summer. That’s a big cash outlay.
I don’t believe the Lions currently have anything in the works with their extra cap room, but they gave themselves some flexibility in case another Damon Harrison-like player becomes available. Clowney is rumored to be on the trading block, and Patrick Peterson is still someone I’d keep my eye on even after news broke Thursday of his pending six-game suspension. The Cardinals aren’t going anywhere and if they’re willing to part ways with the soon-to-be 29-year-old once he returns, the Lions should pounce.
Not much talk about the backup QB. Are they set with Cook? — @gsmitty_1
The Lions are rolling with Tom Savage and Connor Cook as their backups to Matthew Stafford, and while there’s been more interest in Cook from the general public, given his Michigan State ties, Savage is the favorite to win the job if the Lions keep just one backup. He’s got the experience the Lions desire at the position and he played for new quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan with the Houston Texans in 2017, when he started seven games.
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For what it’s worth, general manager Bob Quinn sounded excited about Cook when he was asked about the Lions’ backup situation on Day 3 of the draft, saying the ex-Spartan has “immense talent” and insisting the Lions feel “good about that room.”
In a diverse, crowded and competitive backfield what is Riddick’s role and identity? We know his skill set, but does it survive this offseason and draft’s acquisitions? — @smballoons
That’s a good question, and one I don’t have a clear answer to right now. The Lions have six running backs on their roster competing for probably four spots, with fullback Nick Bawden potentially a fifth player at the position. Johnson is clearly this team’s No. 1 back, and I’d consider either C.J. Anderson or Zach Zenner the backup because of their pure running ability. Riddick has been the team’s third-down option for some time because of his receiving acumen, but he averaged a career-low 6.3 yards per catch last season. Rookie sixth-round pick Ty Johnson could be a factor in the return game, and scouting reports peg him as more runner than receiver coming out of college.
Given the makeup of the other running backs on the roster, I think Riddick still could have a role as an elusive pass-catching threat, though it remains to be seen what the organization has planned for Ty Johnson. Riddick is 28, a bit one-dimensional, the most expensive back on the Lions roster and in the last year of his contract, so those are strikes against him. He was a good special-teams player early in his career so maybe there’s some hidden value there that could help him retain his role this fall. But I don’t think his future will shake out until training camp.
Why didn’t we draft Ed Oliver? We’ve provided Stafford with “weapons” time and time again, and the return on investment has been next to nothing. — @suttera2
Let’s put a bow on the draft with this question. Taking T.J. Hockenson at No. 8 wasn’t about getting Stafford another weapon so much as it was about the player and what he adds to the offense. The Lions like Hockenson on and off the field. He’s a grinder, he’s coachable and they think he can be a special tight end because of his ability to manipulate a defense as a blocker and receiver.
I know the big fear among Lions fans is that this is another Eric Ebron-Aaron Donald situation, with Oliver playing the role of Donald. Maybe that happens. Oliver is a special talent and someone I think will have an excellent career. But he’s also a bit undersized for the Lions’ taste (like Donald was in 2014), a different personality on the field and maybe not the best schematic fit if you think he’s an ideal three-technique defensive tackle.
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I think Oliver has more versatility, but the bottom line is that the Lions had Hockenson ranked ahead of Oliver as a prospect and tight end was a bigger positional need.
During the season on the road, have you ever lost your computer/device or have it malfunction up against a deadline? What would you do in that situation? — @FriedrichsJk
I always like to end with a non-Lions question or two. This is good, because I often worry about this when my computer is acting up or I run into some other temporary issue. One incident comes to mind, at the combine a few years back, I was writing a Sunday story that was going to be a centerpiece for the sports section the next day. Can’t remember what it was about or what happened, but I do know my computer went on the fritz and I couldn’t send for some reason, so I ended up using the computer in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at.
That wasn’t a true deadline issue, like after a game, but I usually bring my iPad with me on the road now in case something crazy happens. We have enough sister papers in other cities that I could probably get a loaner computer if I needed one and had the time, and then there’s always the notes application to type in on my cell phone if I’m really in a bind. None of that would be ideal, but the news has to get out somehow.
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.
Published at Fri, 17 May 2019 10:00:04 +0000