Lions mailbag: How much could Levy, Abdullah help?

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Ameer Abdullah

After a week away to celebrate the bye, give thanks, because our Detroit Lions mailbag is back in business.

@Justin_Rogers if Pettigrew goes on IR, is he done playing for the lions?

— Mike (@BergeyMbergey) November 21, 2016

Let's remove the injured reserve component from the equation and simply focus on 2017, the final year of Brandon Pettigrew's contract. He's currently scheduled to make $4.35 million next season and it's difficult to imagine the Lions paying that kind of money to a tight end who turns 32 in February.

This is the only home Pettigrew has known as a professional. He's had some good seasons and for a three-year stretch was Matthew Stafford's security blanket. But prior to Pettigrew's most recent ACL injury, the third he's suffered, he had averaged fewer than one catch per game the past two seasons. His role in the passing game has been minimized with by the presence of Eric Ebron, so unless the veteran takes a steep pay cut, yes, his time in Detroit is likely nearing an end.

@Justin_Rogers more Killebrew, right? What situations?

— HoustonLionsFan (@HoustonLionsFan) November 21, 2016

Before the performance against Jacksonville, which included four third-down tackles that forced punts, Miles Killebrew looked every bit the part of a rookie from a small college, often finding himself out of position with his defensive assignments. But that's what these small tastes of playing time are for, developing younger talent so they're prepared when required to take on a larger role.

I don't want to overreact to one good performance. It's best to leave Killebrew in his current role, as a significant special teams contributor and third-down package player on defense. Let him put together a string of quality performances before adding more to his plate.

@Justin_Rogers can Laurinaitis really boost the Lions D at LB if he is signed?

— Barry (@crossnoe7) November 21, 2016

I don't know what James Laurinaitis has left in the tank. He obviously put together some big tackle numbers with the Rams the past seven seasons, but the production was in decline for a few years before he signed with New Orleans this offseason. He's always been a sound tackler and is considered above-average in coverage. The Lions have obviously struggled to get consistent play from their linebackers, but I can't imagine the team signing Laurinaitis and thrusting him into the lineup over Tahir Whitehead this late into the season.

@Justin_Rogers how concerned should the lions be about WR play?

— OptionsTrader32 (@optionstrader32) November 21, 2016

Some of the inconsistency is troubling from the group, but also somewhat expected given the number of weapons on the roster. Golden Tate's production is always going to hinge on yards after the catch. If the opponent is breaking on the ball and tackling well in the open field, his production is going to be limited. Marvin Jones' recent struggles are more surprising. He was so good during training camp and it carried over to the regular season, but the big plays have evaporated in recent weeks.  I wonder if his unexpected number of drops are playing into his usage.

@Justin_Rogers What's your favorite thanksgiving side dish? I'm a mashed potato guy, green bean casserole gets an honorable mention.

— Sonny-Out of Bounds (@showe_32) November 21, 2016

Important question. I'm also all-in on the mashed potatoes. And while it's a controversial choice, I'm a huge fan of stuffing. I like it cooked inside of the bird, salmonella be damned. But if you add raisins to your stuffing, you're dead to me.

@Justin_Rogers How much better should we expect the Lions D to actually be with Levy healthy?

— AJ Weston (@Big_Wes15) November 21, 2016

It's difficult to say, AJ. We're left to speculation. The coaching staff seems to believe Levy is the same player he was in 2013 and 2014. Even though they see him on the practice field, they're guessing as well. Or maybe it's more accurate to say they're hoping.

I don't anticipate that Levy's instincts have faded, and he's always been a dedicated study in the film room, but does he still have the same explosion in those legs? I don't know.  What I do know, is even at 80 percent of the player he was during that two-year stretch, it's a significant upgrade from what the Lions have been working with at linebacker.

DeAndre Levy

@Justin_Rogers If Ameer returns, how much of an impact will he realistically have?

— Kevin Thayer (@KevinThayer) November 21, 2016

Again, we're speculating, but if he's medically cleared, Ameer Abdullah is a natural runner with good vision and burst. The team was extremely cautious with him throughout training camp and he came out the gate like a rocket in the regular season. I have to imagine he'd provide a big boost to the offense.

@Justin_Rogers how many people do you think will be at the Lions post Super Bowl parade?

— فهد (@fahmohh) November 21, 2016

If the Thanksgiving parade can draw a million like it did in 2015, maybe a Super Bowl parade could, too. Weather would clearly be the biggest obstacle.

@Justin_Rogers looks like the Lions had a solid draft. Did we draft decent players or was our roster that bad?

— Erik Kaseta (@ekaseta) November 21, 2016

It's a reasonable question. It never hurts when your draft picks overlap with your roster holes, but Taylor Decker has legitimately excelled as a rookie. A'Shawn Robinson has played as expected for a second-rounder, a contributor who has shown improvement, while Graham Glasgow is probably a little ahead of the curve of a normal third-rounder by virtue of holding his own in the starting lineup.

I need to see more from the mid-round guys. The sample size is just too small for Antwione Williams, Miles Killebrew and Dwayne Washington.

@Justin_Rogers Is the Lion offence getting too conservative to take chances downfield with M Jones?

— JC Spadoni (@Jcshadow1982) November 21, 2016

No, I don't believe that. Before Jacksonville, Detroit ran into a pair of really good defenses in Minnesota and Houston. Even still, Detroit almost always takes at least one shot to Jones, they just haven't been connecting in recent weeks.

@Justin_Rogers why is Theo not more involved when he clearly is the better back... Watching Washington run is tough to watch😞

— Cody Varner (@cjvarner00) November 22, 2016

If you're talking about this week, it's because Riddick suffered a hand injury on the first drive against the Jaguars. It was wrapped and bloody after the game and he struggled to get dressed, but he fulled expects to play against the Vikings on Thursday.

@Justin_Rogers in a season full of mid-tier teams, are the lions the mid-tieriest (that's a word) of them all?

— Greg Keesee (@gregkeesee) November 22, 2016

When you hovering around .500 and all your games have been decided by seven or fewer points, yeah, you're kind of the mid-tieriest. But with improved defensive play down the stretch, they could easily move into the lower tier of contenders.

@Justin_Rogers how much chatter is in the press box in game? Other than your bf Meinke. Is info shared or is it everybody for themselves?

— tony tuccini (@TonyTuccini) November 22, 2016

It's assigned seating, but we're all pretty friendly. I spend more time talking with my own colleagues at The Detroit News, whether that's Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo or James Hawkins. Niyo has an incredible sense for the little things happening during the game and is an invaluable second set of eyes.

Calvin Johnson's final Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field in Detroit was memorable. He finished with three touchdown catches, including this grab against the Eagles' Eric Rowe.

@Justin_Rogers after the game beers or cocktails for the holiday? Oh and when does Bryant come back?

— Mike Wilder (@Cartinthewater) November 22, 2016

I'm not much of a drinker after games. I'm usually pretty worn out after 11 or 12 hours at the stadium. But for the holiday, maybe I'll make an exception. I deserve it, right?

As for Armonty Bryant, he'll be back after the Vikings game. If he picks up where he left off, the Lions' pass rush could be pretty scary down the stretch.

@Justin_Rogers When was the last time the Lions won easily as in stress-free?

— Jared Tozer (@Toz5) November 22, 2016

Probably the Thanksgiving drubbing of the Eagles last season. Detroit jumped out to a 24-7 lead at the half and cruised to a 45-14 win.

@Justin_Rogers when is the last time we had a defensive and special teams TD in the same game?

— Justin Mortemore (@jmortemore) November 22, 2016

Oct. 10, 2010 against the St. Louis Rams. In the 44-6 victory, Stefan Logan returned a kickoff 105 yards and Alphonso Smith had a 42-yard interception return.