Lions mailbag: Stafford's resources, Ansah's usage
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions will hold their first OTA next week, where the veterans and rookies will share the field. While we wait for that, it seems like a good time to knock out a mailbag.
Will the media be allowed at OTAs or are you guys still on the naughty list?— Gary (@RedneckLionsFan) May 18, 2018
There will be access to OTAs. NFL media guidelines require that one out of every three OTA practices are open to the media, so we'll get our first look at the team sometime next week.
Also, the team and the media who routinely cover it aren't feuding. The Lions comply with the required media policies, but they just don't make an effort to go much beyond the bare minimum.
We’re going to circle back to a previous question we decided to push to the offseason. Top 5 logos in sports?— Scrambled Eggs (32.0) (@StamosaurusRex) May 18, 2018
Clearly we're at this stage of the offseason and we all need a summer break.
My top 5 sports logos, in no particular order.
■ Milwaukee Brewers (1978-93 version)
■ Patriots (although the uniforms are average)
■ Detroit Red Wings
Also, can we recognize the greatness of Austin Peay's logo? Sadly, I'm choosing to ignore the plethora of great minor league baseball options.
Q: With Aaron Rodgers coming back from injury with the Packers and the Vikings adding Kirk Cousins as QB do you think the Lions have done enough to give Stafford the weapons he needs to be the elite QB of the NFC North?— TSL2018 (@TSL2018) May 18, 2018
Outside of the mix-and-match collection of tight ends, the Lions have invested heavily in surrounding Matthew Stafford with adequate resources. The offensive line is made up of two high-priced free agents, two first-round picks and a third-rounder. The team traded up in the second round to secure a running back, after signing LeGarrette Blount in free agency. And the receivers are obviously a quality collective.
That said, former general manager Martin Mayhew also put a lot of effort into surrounding Stafford with talent. There were early-round wide receivers (Titus Young, Ryan Broyles), early-round offensive linemen (Larry Warford, Travis Swanson, Laken Tomlinson), as well as pouring free agency and draft resources into the backfield with Jahvid Best, Reggie Bush and Ameer Abdullah. There were even a pair of first-round tight ends in Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron.
That's a reminder that the investment doesn't always pay off. But the Lions have never lacked effort in surrounding Stafford with talent.
The key to the current offense's success will be unlocking a consistent running game. Stop me if you've heard that before.
Stafford will be fine, but he can't do it all. If the Lions can average four yards per carry and routinely convert short-yardage situations on the ground, the offense could be a top-five unit.
Since we're likely to see Kennard with both his hand on the ground and a 2-point stance, is there any likelihood that we'll see Ziggy display the same versatility, even if it's just to rush from the outside?— BRick (@ch0z3n1) May 18, 2018
Ziggy Ansah prefers to rush from a four-point stance from the edge, with both hands on the ground, but he has stood up in previous incarnations of the defense. I'm sure that will continue. And given the versatility of fronts Matt Patricia and company will likely look to deploy, I'm sure we'll see Ansah dropping in to coverage on occasion. But I would not expect his usage to be similar to the way Devon Kennard is deployed, given his experience and comfort level off the ball.
With the addition of Ragnow, Crosby, and other FA offensive linemen, how do you see the starting 5 shaking out? I’m really hoping offensive line becomes one of our strengths with as much as we invested via free agency and draft the past few years.— Raj Pardanani (@BlueSteel313) May 18, 2018
I can't envision a scenario where Tyrell Crosby starts without an injury. With good health, the starting lineup should be Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, Frank Ragnow, T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner.
Corey Robinson and Crosby will battle to be the primary backup offensive tackle, while Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins are the leading options to back up the interior. It will be interesting to see how much the Lions test Crosby at guard this offseason. There are some analysts who see a natural fit for the position, and if he does take to it, he could factor into the conversation next year if the Lions opt to move on from Lang.
On the basis of a 3-3-5 defensive set, are the starters Davis, Kennard and JRM? If D-line stays healthy and Zettel continues improvement is this a top half of the league pass rush?— Scott Marquard (@blscott34) May 18, 2018
It could easily depend on down and distance. My early inclination is Christian Jones will see the majority of the snaps in three-linebacker packages, but Jalen Reeves-Maybin, with a strong showing in training camp, could certainly prove he deserves to be on the field in more obvious passing situations. His range, agility and instincts work to his advantage when dropping.
What’s the Lions' biggest weakness? D-line?— TherealMichael Fick (@MichaelFick1) May 18, 2018
The defensive line actually offers some promise, if healthy. Kerry Hyder, Anthony Zettel and Ansah should be able to generate at least an average pass rush, while the middle looks more stout following the additions of Da'Shawn Hand and Sylvester Williams.
The tight end situation is more unstable. Luke Willson has been a nice complementary piece during his career, but it's a big projection to expect him to be the lead dog. And Michael Roberts is primed for a bigger role, but while I was really impressed with his improvements as a blocker last season, I can't shake how badly he struggled to hold on to the ball during training camp as a rookie.
If the O-line doesn't improve fast, then Stafford won't become a top 3 QB. It's almost as if Stafford is John Elway Jr. Great arm, can't win in the playoffs, NO RUNNING GAME. Will the Lions ever get lucky like Denver and get a HOF RB in the 6th Round? i.e. Terrell Davis?— 50investors.com (@50investors) May 18, 2018
Not to knock Davis, a tremendous talent, but Denver's run game was more successful because of the zone-blocking scheme installed by Alex Gibbs. Mike Anderson averaged 4.4 yards per carry and topped 1,000 yards twice. Olandis Gary, Rueben Droughns and Tatum Bell also had 1,000-yard seasons in Denver. Clinton Portis averaged 5.5 yards per carry his two years with the Broncos and 4.1 yards his seven other years in the league.
Talent and durability are obviously important, but scheme matters more. Of all the pieces the Lions added this offseason, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who blocked for Elway, is the key.
Ragnow, center or guard to begin camp?— Tommy Fellows (@FellowsTommy) May 18, 2018
Without the benefit of seeing him on the field to this point, I'm still leaning center.
I’m all about the DL signing to replace Spence. Who and when?— Horace Koch (@Horace_Koch) May 18, 2018
I know Lions fans are holding out hope for Johnathan Hankins, but there's been no movement on that front since the team agreed with Sylvester Williams back in March. The team also had talks with Ricky Jean Francois that stalled this offseason.
It's possible either one of those players could come back into play in the coming weeks, but for now, I think the Lions want to get a sense for what they have on the roster.
Please tell me the Lions have zero interest in Dez Bryant.— Motowncool© (@Motowncool) May 18, 2018
I can't imagine a scenario where the Lions pursue Bryant. Wide receiver is not a need, he's not a personality fit and the price tag would be prohibitive even if there was interest.
Do you think Johnson was the right pick over Guice? Think it had to do with his possible "character" issues?— Chad Stewart (@Chef_Chadley) May 18, 2018
I prefer Derrius Guice's running style but whatever the concerns may have been surrounding the prospect, it led to him sliding to the bottom of the second round. If you're looking to pack your locker room full of guys that have an unquenchable passion for their profession, it's easy to understand why the Lions like Kerryon Johnson.