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Lions mailbag: Readers have an appetite for 'Snacks'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Welcome to another Detroit Lions mailbag. 

The Lions made the trade for Damon Harrison official on Thursday.

I’m sure your mailbag will be filled with @snacks question but how do you explain to your 4 year old that Lions didn’t steal snacks from someone?

— Matthew CB (@MatthewCB8) October 25, 2018

Start with something your kid knows, maybe a cartoon character who uses a nickname. I'm pretty sure Doc McStuffins' first name isn't really Doc. Never mind, this is going to get convoluted. How about you only refer to Harrison as Damon around the children?

What happened to TJ Jones?! Seemed like he took a big step forward last season.

— Joe Raymond (@bennietheblade) October 25, 2018

The writing was on the wall at the end of last season, once Kenny Golladay got healthy from a midseason hamstring strain. The final four games Jones was active in 2017, he averaged 12 snaps per contest. This year, he's averaging 12 snaps per contest. 

He still has a role, but it's a small one because he's not as effective as Marvin Jones, Golden Tate or Golladay. As long as those three are healthy, this is what TJ's playing time is going to look like. 

More: Lions players cautiously optimistic about Damon Harrison trade

With the Giants and Raiders fire sales, are we seeing a new era of NBA and MLB style "tank to rebuild" in the NFL? Dump payroll, trade veterans, and stock pile draft picks?

— Daniel L. Carlson (@DanielCarlson_1) October 25, 2018

There's certainly some of that making its way into football. The best example might have been Cleveland's trade for Brock Osweiler last year, when they got a second-round pick from the Texans just for agreeing to take on his massive salary.

Midseason trades are trickier, because it can be difficult to integrate a player midstream. But if a non-contending team can score some extra draft equity by clearing salary off the books, dumping a player who doesn't fit long-term plans AND it might even help them lose games to secure better draft position, it makes all kinds of sense. 

Sure, the Giants are waving a white flag with this trade, but it could also help them finish 2-14. And for a franchise that needs a new quarterback, that's a good thing in the long run. 

The acquisition of Damon Harrison shouldn't greatly affect the playing time of Lions defense tackle A'Shawn Robinson (91).

How does acquiring affect A’Shawn’s status? I thought he was making strides.

— metrichead (@metrichead) October 25, 2018

Everyone will be impacted a little bit, but I don't see Robinson losing significant playing time. As you noted, he's been playing well. He's even had some dominant stretches, including the fourth quarter against the Dolphins last week. 

We won't know until we see it come together, but here's what I anticipate. Robinson has averaged 22 snaps the six games he's been active and that stays the same, maybe even ticks up a bit. Ricky Jean Francois, at 23 snaps per week, probably sees a slight reduction.

It's Da'Shawn Hand's playing time that seems most likely to decrease. And that's not a reflection of his performance, because he is playing really well, but the Lions need to manage the rookie's workload after working him 75 percent of the reps the past three weeks. 

That means Hand will be fresher for his snaps, and as I proposed in my column Tuesday, it also gives the team the flexibility to use him more at defensive end, in a potentially dominant run-stopping sub-package.

Do you expect to see another game where Kerryon gets 2/3 of them? I really like Blount as a player and his strengths, but Kerryon has the hot hand.

— Rain City Roar (@RainCityRoar) October 25, 2018

Through seven games, Johnson has as many carries as the rest of Detroit's backs combined, and yet, he could certainly handle more than the 10 carries he's averaging each week.

Because of the Lions' depth at the position, and his physical build, don't expect rookie running back Kerryon Johnson to match his 19 carries and three targets against the Dolphins too often.

I wouldn't anticipate he'll see last week's workload — 19 carries and three targets — too often. The Lions are going to be extremely cautious with his playing time given his leaner frame and injury history through high school and college. 

In case you missed it, I did a study on how the Patriots have used their leading rusher over the past decade. You should check it out

Will Ziggy's injury history actually make him affordable for the Lions to re-sign or is the market for him going to be mega-high regardless?

— Big Biting Pig (@BigBitingPig) October 25, 2018

No, you're right, Ansah's salary expectations will probably be depressed by durability concerns extending back three years. But because it's the open market, and there will be competing offers from desperate teams, he's still likely to end up overpaid.

Ansah is an exceptional talent, when healthy. But, of no fault of his own, he hasn't been able to shake the injury bug in recent years. For that reason, the Lions should probably move on, regardless of the possible discount. It's bad business to pin expectations on hope.

Are the Lions done with the trading? You think they should go after DeVante Parker just in case one of the trio gets hurt for this so called playoff push.

— Lions Nation (@LionNation) October 25, 2018

I wouldn't rule out a smaller deal, but the acquisition of Harrison ate up a huge chunk of the team's remaining cap space. I haven't updated my own cap chart since the start of the season, but I believe the team is working with approximately $2 million, which should be viewed as a rainy-day fund. 

I don't think Parker is a great fit for the same reasons I talked about with TJ Jones above. The Lions have three receivers and don't have room to squeeze production out of a fourth. 

Of course Damon Harrison will improve the Lions run defense, but do you think that he will help improve the pass rush?

— Goat (@Thegoat0322) October 25, 2018

Not to the same degree, no. He generates some pocket push, but it's not a specialty. Where his presence can help is freeing up others to do more damage, namely the linebackers and safeties on blitzes. Jarrad Davis has been outstanding as a pass-rusher this year, generating pressure on 34 percent of his rushes. No linebacker has been better. If Harrison is commanding a double, Davis (and others) should have more room to operate when coming from the second level. 

Ricky Jean Francois didn’t seem super thrilled when asked about the Harrison signing. Any chance that current DL views this as an insult and a threat to playing time, extensions? His reaction was just so different from Bellore’s, Diggs’ etc. — esp. from a former teammate.

— Stephen Rickard (@SteveRickardOSF) October 25, 2018

I didn't view Jean Francois' comments as selfish, thinking about his own playing time. You have to understand the bond these guys build over the course of a season. You spend more time with your position group than anyone else during the season, including your families. And you don't just exist in a bubble, you're working together every day to achieve common goals.

Jean Francois has been around long enough to know the addition of one defensive lineman is probably bad news for another one of his brothers. Even if he realizes the addition of Harrison is better for the overall success of his group and the team, it still stings to deal with the other side of that upgrade, in this case the release of Sylvester Williams, a well-liked, hard-working teammate. 

From what I thought I noticed, it looks the Lions have used more run sets and run scheme ideas from the Patriots in recent weeks. Do you think that Matt Patricia is helping to make Jim Bob Cooter a better offensive coordinator?

— Digi (@DigitalMayne) October 25, 2018

I don't know enough about what the Patriots do to confirm or deny what you're saying, but I can say that Patricia is involved in every step of the operation. The run game, particularly the blocking scheme, is a collaborative effort between head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. 

How worried should we be about Davis not practicing?

— Anonymous Limo Driver (@detroitlions911) October 25, 2018

Absolutely. Any muscle strain has the possibility to linger and Davis was truly laboring during the portion of practice open to the media on Wednesday. 

If he can't play, it will be interesting to see how Jalen Reeves-Maybin handles the increased workload. I've always liked him as a player. He has exceptional instincts, which make up for some of his size limitations. Plus, he's pretty good in coverage. 

Top 3 press boxes by provided snack quality.

— GoldenDelicious (@GolDel1960) October 25, 2018

Important query. 

Best press box food is Tampa Bay, without question. But Dallas really brings it with the snack game. How am I supposed to say no to an unending supply of gummy bears and peanut M&M's? Plus, don't tell my bosses, the Cowboys tap a keg so we can sip on a postgame beer while churning out our stories after we wrap up interviews. 

The food is free at Ford Field, so I should probably bite my tongue, but the main meal often leaves a lot to be desired. But I'll be damned if I don't praise the fresh hot pretzels and pimento cheese at halftime. 

Just how good is this offensive line? They’re keeping Stafford clean, they’re creating big holes and aside from some mistakes like penalties in the red zone, have they been the strongest unit on the team and the biggest reason for the turnaround from the 0-2 start?

— TherealMichael Fick (@MichaelFick1) October 25, 2018

They're not Dallas dominant, but the group has been really good. These are the stats I love the most when assessing the group's overall performance:

  • According to ESPN, Matthew Stafford is being pressured on 19.7 percent of his drop backs. That's the lowest rate in the NFL. Think about that. Stafford went from the most-sacked QB the past two years, to facing the least pressure. 
  • The Lions are averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Again, they were last in the league last year and now they're top-5 in the category. It's not just the line here, it's the tight ends, the receivers and, of course, the backs. But, as you note, we've all seen the running lanes that are being opened each week. NFL.com Next Gen Stats show Kerryon Johnson is running far more north-south than east-west to hit his holes. That's new and welcomed. 
  • Finally, the Lions are converting 75 percent of their power opportunities, running plays needing two or fewer yards on third and fourth down. That's top-10 after finishing, you guessed it, last in 2017. 

Is the @snacks acquisition the Rasheed Wallace of the @Lions?

— Jeremy Beieler (@JBeieler) October 25, 2018

You're not the first one to make the comparison, and maybe it will look that way in hindsight, but that Pistons team was a championship contender prior to landing Wallace. The Lions haven't won their division in 25 years or a playoff game in 28. Harrison is a really good get, but I can't say he is the missing piece that suddenly makes the team a Super Bowl contender. 

NFC Championship game: Lions at Rams. True or false?

— Mius Flint (@MiusFlint) October 25, 2018

You kids and your unending optimism. 

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers