Justin Rogers and John Niyo discuss the Lions' upcoming game against the Rams and the depressing nature of covering meaningless football in December. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park — Having cleared the Thanksgiving hurdle, we're back on our normal Thursday schedule with the Detroit Lions mailbag.
If Bellore does not play how much effect will it have on the run game?— Sweta Patel (@sweta2311) November 29, 2018
Probably not too much. The Lions use Nick Bellore about eight snaps per game, and as a run blocker on 75 percent of those. If he's out this week, you're either scrapping much of that lead blocker looks from the call sheet or shifting someone else into that role, most likely Luke Willson.
Justin, what grade (A-F scale) would you give Bob Quinn so far during his tenure and why?— Fire Cooter (@thee__captain) November 29, 2018
That's a complicated question, and one that probably merits a deeper dive, but we don't have that kind of time, so I'll go with my gut and give him a C-minus.
The key to team building remains the draft, and like many general managers, Quinn has had his hits and misses. For whatever reason, he's been at his best in the third round, landing an above-average center in Graham Glasgow and a good wide receiver in Kenny Golladay. Even Tracy Walker has shown some promise in his limited role this year.
Other good picks for Quinn include Da'Shawn Hand, Kerryon Johnson and Jamal Agnew.
Then there's the bad.
First, he hasn't hit on enough of his Day 3 selections. Out of 16 picks from the fourth to seventh round, eight are off the roster and several others are backups barely playing or special teamers.
Quinn is clearly better with his early-round selections, although the 2017 class isn't looking great outside Golladay. Teez Tabor has been a thorough disappointment, after the GM announced he spent more time personally scouting the cornerback than any prospect throughout his career. As for Jarrad Davis, the jury remains out. The Florida linebacker has yet to put it all together for a meaningful stretch.
In free agency, Marvin Jones and Devon Kennard have both exceeded expectations. Rick Wagner has been decent, but you can't reasonably say he's played up to his lofty price tag. And the swap from Larry Warford to T.J. Lang hasn't worked out in the Lions' favor.
As for depth signings, many failed to contribute as expected: Wallace Gilberry, Stevan Ridley, Geoff Schwartz, Darrin Walls, Jeremy Kerley, Paul Worrilow, Cornelius Washington, DeShawn Shead, LeGarrette Blount, Sylvester Williams and Willson are among those who didn't provide the expected impact.
Quinn's best move was the recent trade for Damon Harrison. It was low cost and fills a need for multiple years.
In the end, the team's record defines Quinn's performance. After two 9-7 campaigns, the Lions currently sit at 4-7. That puts the general manager slightly under .500 for his tenure, with a team that's trending in the wrong direction.
Should the Lions shut down KJ for the season just like they did with Marvin J.?— Abdullah Mahgoub (@Abdulla_Mahgoub) November 29, 2018
While I understand the fans who would prefer to see the team tank, I don't think there's any need to prematurely shut down Kerryon Johnson if there's a strong belief he could be medically cleared to return this year.
Johnson has been electric, exceeding the expectations of most, but his game still needs polish, particularly as a receiving option out of the backfield. The extra reps this year have the potential to be valuable to his development and future performance.
At what point does Stafford start to earn the dreaded nickname “Coach Killer”?— Mius Flint (@MiusFlint) November 29, 2018
Interesting take. There's another beat reporter who has said Matthew Stafford is just good enough to get a coach fired, and I understand the sentiment.
Stafford is a good quarterback, but as I've said a number of times, he's not great. Wherever you want to place the blame, he's not good enough to put an offense on his back and elevate the unit to another level week in and week out, regardless of the circumstances. To succeed with Stafford, you need to be above-average everywhere else — receivers, run game, offensive line, defense and coaching — and that's always been a moving target for the Lions.
Yet Stafford is paid top dollar, because that's what the market commands. Therefore, there's an expectation he performs at the same level as the game's elite passers — Brady, Rodgers, Brees. As he continues to fall short of that lofty goal, we look to point fingers elsewhere, and it almost always lands on coaching.
Could Stafford thrive in a system led by Sean McVay, Andy Reid or Bruce Arians? Who knows? But if Stafford manages to outlast Patricia, without any future playoff success in between, the coach-killing moniker is probably fair.
What are the chances of a more creative and aggressive offense in the first quarter of the game?— Hail Mary-I ain't Lion. This team makes me crazy. (@lamos_mary) November 29, 2018
The Lions don't have the personnel to be aggressive, and creativity is about putting personnel in position to be successful more than anything else. The Lions show flashes of creativity, like the misdirection utilized to get Golladay open for a long gain on Thanksgiving, but they don't have enough talent to execute plays like that consistently.
For example, the Lions threw a fade route to Michael Roberts, one-on-one against a cornerback at the end of the Bears game. Physically, it was a clear mismatch, and it's a route we haven't seen from Roberts before. So, in a way, it was a creative use of talent.
But because the execution failed so miserably, it looks like a dumb call in hindsight. The ability to execute, and knowing what players are capable of executing, separates good coaching from bad coaching. With Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kerryon Johnson gone or not in the lineup, it's difficult to expect much more out of this offense.
Gut feeling on what you’ve heard and seen, is Stafford Patricia’s guy? He seems often robotic when talking about him. Never really defends him, nor criticizes him.— DefendTheDen (@Vretz2121) November 29, 2018
Much like Jim Caldwell, Matt Patricia never criticizes any player. I wouldn't read too much into that.
As for defending Stafford, Patricia's praise of the quarterback's toughness and work ethic has been strong and consistent. I've seen or heard nothing that would suggest the coach is souring on Stafford.
If Aaron Donald was actually a Jedi, which color lightsaber would he use?— Matt Gibbons (@thegibb2) November 29, 2018
Red. There's no way Donald isn't actually Sith.
Was there ever an explanation on why they went for 2 so early? Extra point makes it 17-16 later in 4th.— matthew dudus (@mattdudus) November 29, 2018
Here's Patricia's answer, "Yeah, being up four, being up five. It’s the same."
That's all I've got for you.
With all the “what if Donald” talk this week, who is one player you personally wished the Lions picked but passed on? (Regardless if the pick the Lions made actually turned out to be a good pick.)— Matthew CB (@MatthewCB8) November 29, 2018
I'd settle for anyone interesting. The current locker room, I'm sure much to Patricia's liking, is about as boring as they come. Ricky Jean-Francois is the closest they have to a fiery leader, and he's a rotational defensive tackle on a one-year deal.
Give me three reasons to watch another Lions game this season.— Smitty (@racheryn) November 29, 2018
1. A misplaced sense of loyalty to a brand.
2. The TV was already on and you can't find the remote.
3. Kerryon Johnson, assuming he plays again.
What grade would you give Frank Ragnow to date?— Jason Gruchala (@curseofthegooch) November 29, 2018
I'll admit, I'm probably grading the rookie on a little bit of a curve, given some of the struggles I'd expect from a first-year offensive lineman.
The run blocking has been good, not great. The pass-blocking remains a work in progress, but has trended in the right direction after a dreadful start to the season. Still, you can't be allowing two pressures a week as an interior lineman.
One area Ragnow must improve in his second season is picking up stunts. It was a clear weakness in training camp that has carried into the regular season. Whether it's positioning, recognition or a combination of the two, he's often late on the assignment, leading to protection issues when working in tandem with Glasgow or left tackle Taylor Decker.
Over/under for defensive players drafted by Lions in 2019? Assuming we have 9 picks still.— PeeBs (@snidgen) November 29, 2018
Is a starting corner going to be a priority in the offseason? Seems like Nevin Lawson gets burned every week.— Joe Raymond (@bennietheblade) November 29, 2018
It should be. In fact, you could make a decent argument it's the team's top need, although I'd still slot it behind edge defender.
Mike Ford has shown some intriguing promise, but it's unreasonable to put much stock in an undrafted rookie who has played in two games. And it's pretty apparent Tabor isn't going to be the answer the Lions had hoped.
Who knows how the board falls, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Lions take a cornerback in the first round. I don't know much about the free-agent class at this point, but Chicago's Bryce Callahan is an ascending young talent in his prime.
Now having the “always next year” mentality, which players should I be holding a microscope to down these last stretch of games, in hopes of having a big 2019?— DETaboveAll (@DETaboveAll) November 29, 2018
Kerryon Johnson, Frank Ragnow, Jarrad Davis, Tracy Walker, Da'Shawn Hand, Jamal Agnew (if he returns) and Mike Ford.
Is it really that strange that the team keeps practicing outdoors in the cold? Or is there an underlying player frustration story to this?— P.J. Wascher (@PEAJAEwascher) November 29, 2018
It's not a big deal. Patricia's explanation on the topic, when it initially came up, was thorough. While I think there's some merit to practicing on the same surface as your home games, there's also plenty to be said about being mentally and physically tough.
How did the D-line gone from our greatest liability to a strength over the course of year so far?— Austin Daniel (@AustinDanieI) November 29, 2018
I wouldn't go that far. The interior of the defensive line has gone from a weakness to a strength because of two additions, Hand in the draft and Harrison via trade. You're talking about two great talents that perfectly fit in Patricia's scheme.
The Lions are still wildly inconsistent rushing the passer, although they've also looked a bit better there as of late as Ziggy Ansah gets closer to being full strength. Still, that's an area that must be improved this offseason.
With the struggles at corner, why not move Diggs back there and replace him with Walker or Wilson at safety? Diggs hasn’t been as effective at safety this year anyway from what I've seen and read.— Ryan Aldridge (@AldridgeRyanC) November 29, 2018
A completely reasonable question. Quandre Diggs was playing at a high level in the slot last season before the position switch and thought that the three right-place-right-time interceptions exaggerated his overall performance at safety.
I get the Lions not wanting to take him off the field. He's one of their best defensive players, but I do like the idea of giving him more reps as a slot cornerback in nickel and dime defensive situations, limiting his safety work to base defensive looks.
And, as you note, this clears a path for more playing time for Walker. Now is a good time to see how the rookie can handle an expanded role.
Kliff Kingsbury next OC?— Erik Gilbert (@Egilbert2121) November 29, 2018
You make the call, but from everything being reported, Kingsbury is going to be in demand, at both the college and professional level.
I'd love to see how Stafford operates a modified Air Raid offense.
Where is the ceiling on draft pick? Can they get all the way to top 3?— Peter Dumon (@pgdumon) November 29, 2018
If the Lions lose out, which is unlikely, they're probably drafting between 4-6.
What's a Christmas song that sums up this Lions season?— Kalsarikännit Al (@LethalSax) November 29, 2018
"Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved it!)"
The first line is, "This time of year, you always disappear." That sums it up nicely.