Lions mailbag: A'Shawn Robinson at fullback? Probably not

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Ziggy Ansah

Allen Park -- Just another normal week for the Detroit Lions. You know, controversial loss on an officiating error, a contract extension for coach Jim Caldwell and league-wide protests during the national anthem. Yep, just another week.

Seems like a good time for our weekly mailbag.

Is Ziggy always going to be injured/playing through injury?

— ChadGreen4Closer (@sho_nuff_kd) September 25, 2017

It's not going to surprise anyone that I don't have access to Ziggy Ansah's medical history, but given the violent nature of the game, with 30-40 collisions with 300-pound offensive linemen each week, it's difficult to imagine any defensive end is feeling 100 percent once the season starts.

In his brief career, Ansah has dealt with a concussion and injuries to his abs, toe, knee, ankle and shoulder. The shoulder issue was known when he was drafted, but it required surgery. And any way you look at it, going under the knife is a traumatic experience for the body.

So far this season, Ansah's play hasn't been impacted by the knee issue that kept him out during training camp and the preseason. I would consider him "healthy" right now.

How long of a leash to you expect Greg Robinson to have?

— Maeby (@wqrqk) September 25, 2017

Pretty long, mostly because there isn't a compelling backup option on the roster. Brian Mihalik and Emmett Cleary have even less time in the system, and a grand total of one career start between them. The hope remains Taylor Decker will be back in a little more than a month. He's eligible to return Oct. 29 against the Steelers, the Lions' first game after their bye.

What's the outlook on Jarrod Davis and time table of his return?

— Josh West (@JoshWest1981) September 25, 2017

He'll be ready when he's ready. That's not meant to be a sarcastic answer. Concussions are brain injuries and the recovery time isn't something that can be easily predicted because each person heals differently.

I take it as a positive sign Davis was on the practice field watching last week. That means he's not negatively impacted by sunlight. But he has to prove he can handle light, then moderate exercise before getting medical clearance to practice without contact. He then has to show no symptoms after that practice to get clearance for contact.

It's a very thorough practice and Davis is still in Step 2 or 3 of the five-step program to return.

There was a holding call on a Stafford scramble when he completed it down to the 2 w/ about 40 seconds left. On who and a good call?

— TheUnofficialVisit (@TheUNOVisit) September 25, 2017

It was a little bit earlier, when Stafford rolled from the pocket and found Marvin Jones at the 2-yard line. The hold was on left guard Zac Kerin, who got beat off the snap. The debuting guard tackled the defender from behind, so yeah, pretty easy call.

Will lions look into adding a legit running back soon

— ride with my pride (@lionsden1997) September 25, 2017

I'm not sure what you mean by legit. I would classify Ameer Abdullah as a legit NFL starter -- a dual-threat option, capable of making tacklers miss, running inside and outside and catching passes out of the backfield. Maybe you mean a more traditional power back, someone who can bulldoze for short yardage when necessary. Regardless on your definition of legit, I wouldn't count on the team adding a back who will contribute until next offseason, unless multiple injuries unexpectedly pop up.

It was nice to see Martha Ford locking arms with the team on Sunday. Do the Fords have a good relationship with their players?

— John Popovits (@The_Johnny_Pop) September 25, 2017

Many players seem to have a good relationship with the Ford family. That shows in the two hours before the game, when many stop and talk to the family during warm-ups.

Eric Ebron

Why two straight throws to Ebron, who was having a horrible game, near the goalline?

— RedWingLion (@RedWingLion) September 25, 2017

You can't abandon an option because he's having a rough stretch. Matthew Stafford is going to continue to trust his weapons and throw to where he feels he has the best matchup. It's up to the coaching staff to take a player out of the game if they feel they can't handle the moment. Jim Caldwell and company didn't do that.

A'Shawn Robinson

I'm disappointed with the play-calling at the 1. Would it be practical to bring in A'Shawn for short yardage fullback?

— Steve Decker (@TheDeckerSteve) September 25, 2017

I left this question in only because I thought about it a little bit and decided the world would be a better place if A'Shawn Robinson played fullback every once in a while. I really don't see it happening because it's an unnecessary risk to an important defensive player and Robinson isn't the most explosive option. But man, who wouldn't want to see him trying to clear a lane for a running back?

What’s going on with Teez Tabor?

— Greg Durkee (@Durkee971) September 25, 2017

The same thing that's been going on since he was drafted. Tabor is developing on the practice field, behind a slew of experienced veterans more capable of contributing right now. His game day status, a healthy scratch the first three weeks, is only indicative of the depth the Lions compiled at cornerback this year. D.J. Hayden can back up both the outside spots and nickelback Quandre Diggs, while rookie Jamal Agnew has a role returning punts. That leaves Tabor the odd man out.

The Tabor pick was made with four years in mind, not Weeks 1-6 of his rookie season. Nevin Lawson and Hayden are free agents after this season. Tabor is expected to be an important piece in 2018.

How do we get the running game untracked? Always thought untracked was an odd word.

— LarryTheS.M.G. (@larrythesmg) September 25, 2017

The biggest thing is going to be blocking. Abdullah is doing a decent job when he has adequate blocking, showing the ability to break off some long runs and make tacklers miss. According to Pro Football Focus, only nine running backs have made more tacklers whiff on run plays than Abdullah, with eight on 46 carries.

The continuity up front, with Travis Swanson out and Zac Kerin in against Atlanta, didn't help. It will be interesting to see how much better the group can be with Swanson and Decker in the lineup, as originally envisioned.

How much of an effect do you think the Davis injury had in the lions run defense? Atlanta seemed to really exploit the middle with the run.

— Michael (@Michaelalynch02) September 25, 2017

A lot.

Is that answer sufficient?

The Lions don't have another linebacker who plays the run with the physicality Davis offers. Additionally, Tavon Wilson's absence also hurt. Sure, the strong safety's aggressiveness gets him out of position on play-action sometimes, but it also lets him fire through gaps like no one else in Detroit's defensive backfield. Without those two, the run defense suffered.

The Ford family purchased the Lions on 11/22/63, the day JFK got assassinated. Talk about jinxes, 1 playoff win since. Is it time to sell?

— Tom Jansen (@TomJansen5) September 25, 2017

Here's the thing about NFL ownership, you can't fire them or force them to sell. If fans really wanted the Fords to sell -- which, by the way, could always lead to the team being relocated to another city -- they could stop buying tickets to the games. That's not going to happen, so the Ford family can do what they want.

Why does it always seem like its the Lions on the short end of the stick???? Life is pain.

— Mike Kailing (@Mike_Kailing) September 25, 2017

Well, one playoff win in six decades will leave you with that feeling. But I'm sure you're talking about the number of strange penalties and non-calls that have impacted the Lions in recent years.

I think part of the problem is we're isolated in a bubble -- you as a fan and me as a reporter -- but bad calls and weird rules are impacting teams around the league all the time. It wouldn't take much to convince me the Lions have faced a disproportionate amount of these issues in recent years, but I think they're susceptible to game-altering calls because they're always involved in games with a razor-thin margins for error, magnifying officiating mistakes.

You think a bad call against the Patriots matters when they're up 35-14 in the third quarter? When you're always scrambling to make dramatic comebacks in the fourth quarter, the window is open for officiating to matter more. That's not excusing the blunders, but explaining why they seem to impact the Lions more.

Does Cooter know that it’s not against the rules to get creative on first downs? Even calling a play action pass would be a miracle.

— Larry (@XaestheticusX) September 25, 2017

You weren't the first person to suggest that the Lions lacked play-calling balance on first down, so I went and double-checked what happened against the Falcons.

In the first half, on first-and-10, the Lions passed five times and ran five times. In the second half, prior to the end-game drives, which required passing, they ran seven times and passed four. When you factor in the late drives, the Lions passed 17 times and ran 12 times on first-and-10.

Perception here is probably fueled by the inefficiency of Detroit's ground game on first down. But suggest the team isn't throwing enough on first down is probably off-base.

Did the Lions make a mistake not trying to run at least one sneak at the goalline? Atlanta was lining up 4 DL and Stafford is great there.

— RedWingLion (@RedWingLion) September 25, 2017

I don't believe so. It wasn't inches, it was a full yard the team needed. And when you're looking for good push against a pretty good Atlanta defensive interior, having a new guard and a center playing out of position, it isn't a great recipe for success.

By throwing, the Lions had time for four shots into the end zone. If you run and are stuffed, you might only get two plays off. I have no problem with the pass-only offense at the 1-yard line, given Detroit's personnel.