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Lions mailbag: D-line help, Davis’ coverage, Robinson’s future, more

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Jarrad Davis

Two preseason games down, two to go. Time to knock down a Detroit Lions mailbag. 

Do you think Lions sign a D-lineman anytime soon?

— ride with my pride (@lionsden1997) August 19, 2018

There's only one guy on the market who moves the needle, and for one reason or another, 32 teams have been passing on defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. The Browns had him in for a workout last week and opted to sign an undrafted rookie out of Delaware named Blaine Woodson instead. That's not a great look for the veteran. 

I'm not going to pretend to know whether Hankins is asking for too much money or it's something else, but if he is in shape and not dealing with an injury, I would have to imagine he could bolster Detroit's run defense. The last time I took a pulse of the situation, the organization's interest was tepid. 

Why does Jarrad Davis look totally lost in coverage on any pass play?

— chris wayda (@chris_w5155) August 19, 2018

Lost is too harsh of a descriptor. Davis is smart and committed to his playbook and film study, so I don't believe it's often a situation of knowing where he needs to be on a given play. His coverage struggles are more related to his technique and the hope is with each rep he's going to clean up some of his route recognition, footwork and leverage issues. 

What’s your take on Miles Killebrew at LB ... 3rd down sub package LB to help with our lack of TE coverage? I personally think he can contribute!

— TC32 (@TCizzle386) August 19, 2018

Speaking of coverage struggles, Killebrew also had glaring issues on the practice field prior to the recent position change. In the limited reps I've been able to watch, he does seem more comfortable mirroring backs and tight ends in the space closer to the line of scrimmage, but the sample size is too small to make any bold declarations. 

Killebrew is firmly on the roster bubble. He's a strong special teams contributor, which elevates his chances, but his defensive role, even in a third-down, sub-package look might be asking for too much, too early after the position switch. 

Theo Riddick

Does it make sense for the Lions to keep Abdullah and trade Riddick? More trade value and I think we underestimate how good of a pass catcher Abdullah is.

— Derek Wilczynski (@derekwilc) August 19, 2018

I think you underestimate the gap between Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah when it comes to route running and reliability. That's not to say Abdullah can't be an above-average receiving option out of the backfield, but Riddick is among the best in the NFL in that role. He's almost impossible to cover one-on-one, rarely drops a pass and has shown a consistent ability to make a defender miss in the open field. 

Additionally, Riddick is the superior pass protector, increasing his value on third downs. 

Abdullah's advantage over Riddick is as a ball carrier, and with the additions of LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson, that edge doesn't matter as much as it did in previous years. 

Why do people care about the preseason?

— RICH KOENIGSKNECHT (@RICH_K13) August 19, 2018

Because they missed football during the spring and summer and are desperate to see it again.

Who wins the QB backup role this season?

— Mike Treadwell (@Treaders21) August 19, 2018

Despite Jake Rudock's 23-of-30 passing performance in the second preseason game, he didn't do anything to close the gap with Matt Cassel. Almost all those completions were check-down throws. 

I'm still leaning toward the veteran winning the job. 

Do we have the right players to run Matt Patricia's defense? Can everyone learn it in time to save the season?

— JW (@jmwhitejmwhite) August 19, 2018

The personnel fits the scheme well enough. The free-agency additions of Devon Kennard and Sylvester Williams, a pass-rushing linebacker and run-stuffing nose tackle, filled the two biggest holes. 

That said, I continue to question whether they have enough talent up front to execute consistently.

How many sacks for Devon Kennard this season?

— Anthony Woodruff (@AnthonyWoodruff) August 19, 2018

I'll set the over/under at 6.5. 

I think the Lions could/should have a top 5 offense. Do you think that’s crazy?

— Dana Scodeller (@Dino_14) August 19, 2018

No. They should, given they finished seventh in scoring last season. Matthew Stafford has clearly hit his stride the past two-plus years, the unit returns a pair of 1,000-yard receivers, are within reason to expect improvement from Kenny Golladay, and bolstered the run blocking and running back position through free agency and the draft. 

If they finish outside the top 10, it would be a major disappointment. 

A'Shawn Robinson

 

What's going on with A'Shawn Robinson? He hasn't looked good and they're playing him similar to the way they did Antwione Williams in 2017, who was a surprise release.

— Big Biting Pig (@BigBitingPig) August 19, 2018

Another person asked if Robinson would make the team. If he were cut, that would fall under the shocking category. But yes, he hasn't looked great, and I would argue this is coming off an underwhelming 2017 season. 

Coming into his third season, with experience in a similar scheme to the one being implemented by Patricia, Robinson should be primed for a breakout. Instead, he's repping behind 10-year veteran Ricky Jean Francois, who wasn't even with the team until training camp. 

He did miss some time during camp with an undisclosed injury, so I don't want to dismiss the possibility that's a factor, but if Robinson can't elevate his play, the defensive line is going to be in bigger trouble than originally believed. 

Do you think joint practices are a little too much for the players to handle?

— Chad Stewart (@Chef_Chadley) August 19, 2018

I don't believe that. Are they grueling? Yes. But they are an exponentially better way to evaluate your roster. 

Do you think that the lack of success in the preseason is just due to players' apathy towards the preseason?

— Benjamin Reath (@Ben_Reath) August 19, 2018

No. The players do not share most fans' apathy toward these games. Sure, there are a handful of established veterans just looking to get in some basic work, but most of the roster sees this as value preparation for the regular season, while well north of half of those 90 players are fighting for bigger roles or jobs. 

Lions 2016 draft class look as good in person as it does on paper?

— Z Smith (@sacky3) August 19, 2018

It certainly doesn't look as good as it did following the end of the 2016 season. We've already talked about Robinson, Killebrew and Rudock, who haven't developed the way we might have expected. Offensive guard Joe Dahl can be added to that list.

Two players from the group, linebacker Antwione Williams and long snapper Jimmy Landes, are gone, and running back Dwayne Washington appears on his way to joining that group. 

That leaves us with Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow and Anthony Zettel. Despite a poor performance against the Giants, Decker should be fine. Glasgow has exceeded expectations and is a solid starter. Zettel has been the biggest surprise, and the arrow seems to still be trending up, despite the scheme change.

Who would you guess gains a roster spot with the loss of Longa?

— Les White (@iconsilk713) August 19, 2018

I had Steve Longa out on my roster projection a week ago, but just barely. I believe the team will carry seven linebackers into the regular season. Two guys who are in position to take advantage of the opportunity are Freddie Bishop and Trevor Bates. 

What’s your level of concern through two preseason games for Matt Patricia’s ability as a head coach in game?

— L.Stals (@lslats810) August 19, 2018

None. Check back with me after four weeks of the regular season. 

With as bad as the Lions' DL, front 7 and pass rush have been so far, if the Raiders did try to move Mack, do you see any scenario where the Lions would make that trade? #OnePride

— TheCupofJoeintheD (@CupofJoeintheD2) August 19, 2018

If the Raiders move Khalil Mack, it's a two-part issue with compensation. First, what are you sending Oakland? The package probably starts with a first-rounder and some additional draft equity. 

Once that agreement is made, then you have to sign Mack to an extension. You can count on those numbers exceeding Von Miller's six-year, $114 million pact signed with the Broncos in 2016. 

Looking too deep...maybe. Between Decker looking genuinely disinterested at times and Blount glaring at the bench in the 3rd Q, is there an unhealthy feel building in the locker room?

— Brandin Klein (@brandin_klein) August 19, 2018

The players are tired. They've been worked hard. But I have not picked up one hint of discontent with the coaching staff from anyone on the roster. 

Over-under on 3 wins?

— Mayonnasian-American (@treetownal) August 19, 2018

Easy there, Chicken Little.