Lions mailbag: How do Lions replace Kerry Hyder?

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions had an off day on Tuesday with only two training camp practices remaining. Instead of enjoying some time off from the team, I thought it was a good time to answer some of your questions.

Do you think we will ever see a day where rosters are larger? 53 seems thin given the nature of injuries and the desire for better safety

— ptsawyer (@patricktsawyer) August 15, 2017

It's certainly possible. It's been more than two decades since we saw the increase to 53 from 47 in 1993. There was a proposal to bump it to 55 in 2015 and 57 in 2016, but neither passed. Instead, we've seen other roster compromises, from the expansion of the practice squad from eight to 10 (a cheaper alternative) and being able to return two players from injured reserve.

I'd like to see the continued expansion of the injured reserve rule, similar to baseball's 10- and 60-day DL. Yes, there's some understandable concern about teams stashing players through this method, but you need to find a better way to protect players without punishing them with a full missed season, including practice time, for an injury that may only require five weeks of recovery time.

Lions rookie tight end Michael Roberts bobbles and loses a pass in the first quarter Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

What are the drop percentages before and since stafford has been QB? Has it always been a huge problem for the lions?

— Jacob Baumann (@Jacob_A_Baumann) August 15, 2017

I had to phone for some help on this one, since public data is only available through 2009. Here's what I learned:

* Drops have been an issue for the Lions for a long time. Please note, I wasn't able to remove data from when Stafford was injured early in his career, but in the eight years since he's been on the roster, the team has put 8.0 percent of their catchable passes on the ground. On average, they've ranked 23rd in the league in drop percentage, including four bottom-five finishes.

* But in the 10 years before Stafford, the Lions dropped 10.3 percent of catchable passes, also good for an average annual ranking of 23rd during that stretch.

* Things have been better since coach Jim Caldwell arrived. In 2015, the Lions dropped just 3.9 percent of their passes, the team's best rate in the 20 years of data I studied. The year before, Caldwell's first with the team, the Lions ranked 13th in the NFL. Last year, the team fell back toward the bottom of the pack, finishing 29th, but here's the curious thing: They were only slightly worse than 2014 (6.7 percent vs. 6.2 percent), indicating the league improved overall.

* Randomly, the Lions were the NFL's best at securing the ball in 1996, with a 5.5 percent drop rate. That's a weird statistical anomaly for a team that finished 5-11.

Jaylin Reeves-Maybin. Do you think he gets to play more with Copelin out?

— Cole Counts (@ColeCounts3) August 15, 2017

There really isn't a correlation between the two. Brandon Copeland was a strong-side linebacker and Reeves-Maybin is a weakside linebacker with the ability to play in the middle. Copeland's injury all but locks up the starting SAM job for Antwione Williams and creates a roster path for Steve Longa, who spent last season on the practice squad.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's accuracy has improved since offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter's arrival.

@Lions keep being amoung leaders in dropped passes every year despite new recievers. Analytics say anything about "catchability" of throws?

— Hermy (@Hermaphro) August 15, 2017

There are data services used by NFL teams that cost thousands of dollars, but nothing publicly accessible that objectively measures catchability. There is a stat, from STATS LLC. that tracks "bad passes," the number of times a QB misses an open target. Matthew Stafford used to really struggle in this department. As recently as 2015, he ranked near the bottom of the league, misfiring on 19.8 percent of his throws.

But since Jim Bob Cooter has taken over as offensive coordinator, and put an emphasis on smarter, often shorter throws, that number has dropped precipitously. Last year, Stafford's bad throw percentage was 13.6 percent, the lowest of his career, and the fifth-lowest rate in the league.

Any chances the Lions bring in a vet to replace Hyder? Would they trade with the Jets to possibly bring in Richardson?

— 🅱️ill Cri$pin (@TxMulready) August 15, 2017

There's a strong possibility the Lions bring in a vet to supplement the pass rush, especially when other teams start making cuts, but it's not likely to be Sheldon Richardson, a malcontent defensive tackle with a $8 million salary for this season. The Lions aren't looking to add a bad apple to a young position group, especially when the move would require some salary cap gymnastics to get it down.

Lions defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. is mugged by Colts tight end Jack Doyle in the first quarter Sunday against the Colts.

So, what's more likely for the DE position. Roll with what you have, sign a FA after cuts or a trade?

— Anthony Armon (@ch0z3n1) August 15, 2017

The Lions have three weeks to see what they have in their young trio of ends — Pat O'Connor, Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga. Through one preseason game, there's some clear potential there, but they'll each need to show more before the team is willing to roll into the season relying on any of the three.

As mentioned above, some veterans will become available at cuts, but it's not fair to count on mining gold at this stage of the year. Pass rush is at a premium around the league, so talent and potential aren't likely to be cast aside. The best bet would be finding an experienced vet who might have flaws in his game, but has good get-off speed that Kris Kocurek can work with.

The Lions' Pat O'Connor (96), a former Eastern Michigan standout, is part of a trio of young defensive ends who could play themselves into a larger role following an injury to Kerry Hyder.

With all of the injuries on the d-line, who are the projected starting front four?

— Todd Henry Jr. (@toddjr2014) August 15, 2017

Right now it's Ziggy Ansah, Haloti Ngata, A'Shawn Robinson and either Cornelius Washington or Anthony Zettel.

Since I'll be going to the Browns game predictions on how much of a disaster will it be trying to leave with the Pistons playing at 4pm?

— A.J. Albright (@ActionJackson84) August 15, 2017

A home game against the Heat a month into the season? I wouldn't worry too much about it.

Any idea at all how close Ansah might be to returning?

— Les White (@iconsilk713) August 15, 2017

There's been no update from the team, but he's been out on the practice field each day with his teammates, not inside rehabbing whatever ails him, so the concern level shouldn't be too high. He had an ankle injury that lingered most of last season, and if additional precaution can minimize the chances of recurrence, it's worth keeping him in bubble wrap.

Lot of Kenny hype. Comparatively speaking in practice does he stand out more than Tate and Marv? Why so much Hype?

— Matt Spagnuolo (@spags24) August 15, 2017

Think of it this way: Sure you already owned a lot of toys on Christmas day, but which was the most interesting that afternoon and the next few weeks.

We already know what the Lions have in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, and they've been doing lots of good things against Detroit's first-team defense throughout camp. Golladay is the unknown, the exciting new toy, so when he does positive things, it's more noteworthy. Most of his practice accomplishments, and his electric preseason performance, came against second-tier defenders. He's done everything right to this point and that's all you can ask.

Also, there's always more hype around offensive weapons, because we're trained to follow the ball when we watch football.


What's the current LB depth chart and status in your opinion?

— Greg Durkee (@Durkee971) August 15, 2017

Tahir Whitehead, Jarrad Davis and Antwione Williams are your projected starters. The top backups are Jalen-Reeves Maybin, Paul Worrilow and Steve Longa, with the first two expected to make the roster and Longa still needing to earn his spot.

Do you think the team has gotten better or worse compared to last year?

— Aaron Pruett (@Michigun91) August 15, 2017

The talent, in many spots, is better. As long as the group is healthy, the team is better at running back, by default. Darren Fells is an upgrade as the No. 2 tight end. Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang are a better right side of the line than Riley Reiff and Larry Warford. And on defense, linebacker and cornerback depth is more talented. The team stayed the same at quarterback, receiver and defensive line. And with Hyder out, the pass-rush is probably worse. The team is also worse at left tackle as long as Taylor Decker is out.