Detroit Lions mailbag: Post-draft edition
Allen Park — After months and months of hype, the NFL draft has mercifully come and gone. The Detroit Lions added nine players through the three-day event and have been tied to another dozen undrafted free agents. With the roster coming together, it felt like a good time to do another mailbag. So on to your questions.
@Justin_Rogers The Lions still seem thin on the d line post draft. Any decent FAs still out there that could help?— AC (@acle12) May 2, 2017
There's actually quite a bit of depth along the defensive line, but there hasn't been an impact addition to the group that struggled to get after the quarterback in 2016.
The Lions are counting on a healthy Ziggy Ansah to flip the script in 2017, as well as the continued development of Kerry Hyder and A'Shawn Robinson. Additionally, the team brought in two free-agent additions they believe can help in Cornelius Washington and Akeem Spence.
Washington has been playing in a different scheme and the Lions are banking on a switch to an attacking 4-3 front will boost his production. As for Spence, he's flashed some pocket-disrupting potential, but hasn't come close to putting it all together. It's these evaluations and projections where pro personnel staffs make their money.
As for the remaining market, it's thin. The big name out there is Mario Williams, but it's similar to DeAndre Levy's situation. Yes, the resume is impressive, but the recent production has been disappointing. I was really high on Jaye Howard last offseason, and the 3-4 defensive end is back on the market. I liked his potential converting to a 4-3 tackle, but he's coming off a hip flexor injury that limited him to eight games with the Chiefs last year.
I wouldn't anticipate an addition here. The Lions are likely to roll with what they have and let camp competitions sort out the end of the roster at both tackle and end.
@Justin_Rogers RE: Tabor, can you remember CB prospects who had Pro Bowl ceiling hype pre-Combine but ran slow @ the Combine live up to orig. expectations?— M Dot aka Digi (@DigitalMayne) May 2, 2017
The example that comes to mind is Joe Haden, coincidentally also out of Florida. Haden was clocked at 4.57 seconds in the 40 and similar questions were raised about his speed compared to his tape. Unlike Tabor, who was somewhat hurt by a deep defensive back class, Haden didn't fall in the draft because of his speed. He was selected by the Browns No. 7 overall in 2010 and has gone on to have a pretty good career, with a pair of Pro Bowl nods and a second-team All-Pro selection.
@Justin_Rogers Glover is 31. can we expect him to be signed for a small extension later to maintain some veteran presence in DB's? Still productive player.— Mike (@cerevisi) May 2, 2017
You have to think of it from the player's perspective as well. This likely will be Quin's last chance to cash in, so if another team wants to offer him three or four years with more guaranteed money, he should take it.
That said, I'd support signing Quin to an extension. Of course the age is a concern, but he's durable, productive and plays a position where his superior instincts will help him overcome a slight loss of speed.
@Justin_Rogers Browns vs. Lions this season, in a preview of the future Armageddon Bowl 666 ... who ya got?— Bill Shea (@Bill_Shea19) May 2, 2017
I loathe predicting football games months before the start of the season, but if the Lions can't beat the Browns at home this upcoming season, both teams will probably be picking in the top-10 of the 2018 draft.
@Justin_Rogers Davis taking over at middle linebacker,do you see tahir being resigned as a Olb or siging elsewhere after his contract is up this year.— Bankroll Papi (@bigdwatts) May 2, 2017
I'm not handing Jarrad Davis the starting middle linebacker job quite yet. General manager Bob Quinn said the rookie will compete for a job in the middle and on the weak side, so it's possible both Davis and Whitehead are starters.
As for Whitehead's expiring contract, that's too far down the road to predict. The Lions have a young linebacking corps in Davis, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Antwione Williams, but if Whitehead has a stellar year, whether he's manning the Mike or one of the outside spots, the cost of maintaining continuity must be thoroughly investigated.
@Justin_Rogers How does the Golladay pick affect the possible resigning of Anquan Boldin?— Joel Lawwell (@LawwellJ) May 2, 2017
Joel, I hit on this a bit in my 10 observations from the draft story on Monday. You should check it out.
But to repeat the point I made there, and one I stated before the draft, the addition of a receiver on the first two days of the draft likely signifies the end of Boldin's brief stint with the franchise. I have a great deal of respect for his career accomplishments and daily approach to practice. He is a consummate leader and professional, but Kenny Golladay's selection signals a new direction and it shouldn't be embraced half-halfheartedly.
@Justin_Rogers Any similarities between Florida's defensive scheme and Detroit's that can help Davis and Tabor transition more quickly?— Dave Reimink (@DaveReimink) May 2, 2017
Former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins runs a very aggressive scheme, with lots of blitzing to generate tackles for loss and turnovers. It's a well-coached, dynamic unit that has players constantly looking for ways to make big plays. What I like about Collins' style is he spends a lot of time cross-training his talent through the spring. That makes for smarter players who understand the entire defense, not just their position.
Additionally, both Tabor and Davis will benefit from having played under two coordinators. The previous incarnation of the Florida defense, which was just as statistically dominant, was focused more on assignment precision and preventing big plays, which probably sounds familiar to Lions fans.
Collins and Florida played a lot of man coverage, so Tabor likely will work through an adjustment period as he learns some of the nuances of Detroit's various zone looks. Darius Slay played under Collins as Mississippi State and had some notable struggles. In limited interactions with Tabor, he strikes me as a sharp kid who won't have much issue mentally processing the concepts.
@Justin_Rogers Who are some players on the hot seat after the draft? Ebron? Diggs? Whitehead?— Adnan Velic (@xProphesy) May 2, 2017
Depends on how you are using the phrase "hot seat." In terms of starting jobs, few are guaranteed from year to year. Davis will have a chance to unseat Whitehead, but as mentioned above, he could easily still start at one of the outside spots. At cornerback, Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs will have to fend off rookies Teez Tabor and Jalen Agnew, as well as free-agent addition D.J. Hayden.
As for long-term jobs, Ebron isn't going anywhere the next two years. Whitehead has an expiring contract, which puts you on the hot seat by default. Diggs is under contract through 2018, but probably on the shakiest ground given the additions. Another name I would add to the list is Ameer Abdullah. The Lions are putting faith in him as the lead back, but another major injury likely would force a significant investment in the position next offseason.
@Justin_Rogers What does the 5th year mean for Lions? He's more trade-able this offseason? Hold a year to give the new TE time? he's the long term plan?— Yooper Trooper (@DaYooperTrooper) May 2, 2017
This is in regards to the Lions exercising the fifth-year option on Eric Ebron's contract. All it means is the organization likes what they've seen from Ebron enough to retain him another season at the market rate. The situation will be reevaluated after the season and the Lions can still part ways next March with no cap hit as long as he isn't recovering from an injury. On the other hand, they could also work toward a long-term extension.
Basically, it's a $8 million pause button.
@Justin_Rogers What is the reasoning for the Lions having DE that can play DT as well? Lack of faith in DT pass rushers?— Erik Kaseta (@ekaseta) May 2, 2017
In theory, in a clear passing situation, you want the best pass-rushers on the field. A defensive end is likely to be lighter and quicker, allowing them to more effectively disrupt the pocket without the threat of being overpowered by a run-blocking lineman.
@Justin_Rogers What UDFA has the best chance to stick? And good job with your coverage by the way.— Neon Knight (@irunamok63) May 2, 2017
It's so difficult to predict something like that now, without seeing the players on the field, but the first thing I do is look at the money given to sign. The Lions guaranteed $36,000 to San Diego State defensive end Alex Barrett and $30,000 to Southern Utah cornerback Josh Thornton, so I'd start there. Obviously, running back Tion Green will also generate buzz because he plays a perceived position of need and can also contribute on special teams.
@Justin_Rogers Are pass drops contagious? And will addition of Roberts help cure the affliction?— George Schwab (@CpkGeo) May 2, 2017
Tight end Michael Roberts, and his monstrous hands, should help some of the Lions' drop issues across the middle, but the problem was widespread in 2016. Marvin Jones was inexplicably bad given his track record. Golden Tate put far too many on the ground, as well. And Ebron, after making positive strides the year before, regressed to an unacceptable drop rate.
The entire team must improve. A fourth-round rookie who will probably see around 30 targets isn't the solution.