This week's Lions-Cardinals game has NFL Draft implications. Justin Rogers and John Niyo break the game down and talk about Detroit's offseason needs. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park — It's Thursday and the mail is here. With little interest in the upcoming matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, we decided to go long with the feature, so here's a record-breaking 27 questions and answers about the Detroit Lions.
What are Damon Harrison's favorite snacks?— Mike GM #OnePride CEO (@archambeaum3) December 6, 2018
Butterfingers and Honey Buns.
Given the current state of the Lions wide receivers, should they consider Kelvin Benjamin? I think he has an $8 million salary through the end of the year, but should they look into him?— Andrew Sutter (@suttera2) December 6, 2018
I do not. First, because there's little value in adding a high-profile player for the stretch run when you're 4-8. And two, Benjamin has never been that good.
What he has, undeniably, is size. But look back to his rookie year, the only season he topped 1,000 yards, and you can see how inefficient the process was for Benjamin. It took 145 targets for him to catch 73 passes.
This year, it's been even worse. Benjamin has been targeted 62 times and caught just 23 balls. That 37.1 percent success rate is the worst in football. Sure, you can pin some of that on the QB play in Buffalo, but Benjamin isn't a great route runner, doesn't get much separation, plus he's shown an inconsistent commitment to conditioning.
Lions should pass. There's nothing to be gained here.
What’s the clearest path to a one year turnaround this offseason for this team? From free agency, to trades, to the draft, what does this team need to do to be dangerous next season?— Ian Matheson (@_ianmatheson) December 6, 2018
A perfect draft, a strong free-agency period and maybe another Snacks-level addition via trade, where the Lions ship out a draft pick for an established veteran who fills a major hole.
This offseason, general manager Bob Quinn needs to find a defensive end, starting cornerback, guard, tight end and wide receiver. The team could stand to upgrade in other places, but those are the musts. If he can somehow manage to hit on all of them, through any of the various modes of player acquisition, that's the key to a turnaround.
The other part of the equation is coaching and development. You're banking on young players like Frank Ragnow, Jarrad Davis, Jamal Agnew and Tracy Walker to take decisive steps forward in their performances. And if the Lions do make a change at offensive coordinator, it will be imperative to find a football mind that is capable of capitalizing on the available talent.
How realistic is the scenario where the Lions actually re-sign Golden Tate in free agency?— Big Biting Pig (@BigBitingPig) December 6, 2018
Financially, the Lions could afford it, but the same question remains from when the two sides were talking an extension early this year — how much does the team want to commit to an over-30 slot receiver who makes a living on his short-area quickness?
Tate's likely to get somewhere around $10-12 million per year on the open market, and if I'm his agent, I'm pushing for a fourth year on the deal, because it will be Tate's last big-money contract. Given the Lions many, many needs, that's probably too much to commit, given the value of the position.
Am I wrong to believe that Caldwell wasn't a particularly great head coach, but still maximized the team's potential each of his last two seasons?— Stephen Thomas (@LionsFan2120) December 6, 2018
No, and I think that was one of Caldwell's defining traits.
I'll go to my grave believing Caldwell's conservative offensive approach his first year here, including reeling in Stafford's aggression in favor of better decision-making, cost the Lions their best opportunity to make a run at the Super Bowl in three decades.
But after losing Ndamukong Suh to free agency, Calvin Johnson to retirement and DeAndre Levy to injury, Caldwell and his staff squeezed about as much production and success as he could out of rosters he had his final three years.
Can you please explain why Kenny Golladay is not thrown fades in the Red Zone? Seems like that would be a successful play.— Ryan Patrick (@RyanPat36836482) December 6, 2018
The fade isn't a great route. It's essentially a 50-50 ball and there are more efficient ways to go about scoring near the goal line. Golladay is tall, but he doesn't have particularly long arms or an elite vertical jump.
Compared to Calvin Johnson, between height, reach and leaping ability, he could high-point a ball nearly a foot higher than Golladay.
Which players' season performance are you most surprised by (positive or negative), offense and defense?— Terry Miller (@mrmiller1972) December 6, 2018
Surprised positively, Kerryon Johnson and Da'Shawn Hand. Even if you see promising signs through the offseason, you temper expectations with rookies. Johnson has been better than I could have imagined watching his college tape, in part because Auburn ran him into the ground, likely hampering some of his explosive ability.
On defense, Hand has been both impactful and consistent. As noted several times, he could stand to add some upper-body strength, but he uses his hands and length so well to play the run and disrupt the pocket.
As for disappointments, probably LeGarrette Blount and Glover Quin.
I had long been supportive of the idea of adding Blount to the roster, but outside of his play the past two games, he's struggled to have the expected impact. I know he's never been a pure power back, despite his size, but his east-west vs. north-south tendencies have been troubling.
With Quin, I could have never imagined the drop-off in performance he's had this season. The cerebral veteran safety has made a career on being in the right place at the right time because superior study habits fuel his elite anticipation. This year, he's been a step slower to those spots and that's made all the difference in the world.
A year after forcing seven turnovers, he has zero in 2018.
How in the world did the Cardinals beat the Packers last week? And is there anything from that game that the Lions need to address in facing them?— Brandon Kerr (@SFHCommish_1) December 6, 2018
Good defense, no turnovers and a little luck.
To beat the Cardinals, the Lions would benefit from forcing rookie Josh Rosen into a big mistake or two, finding a way to generate some chunk gains in the passing game, capitalizing on red-zone trips and slowing down defensive end Chandler Jones, who is having another excellent season.
The Lions are getting sacks, the Lions are stopping the run ... are you buying this D-line as legit heading into next year or is it still priority No. 1 with Ziggy likely gone?— Hermy (@Hermaphro) December 6, 2018
The run component of the front four is shaping up nicely, but the Lions still need more from the pass rush. The Lions are 28th in pressure rate, according to Football Outsiders. With that in mind, yes, finding Ansah's replacement should be the top priority in the draft.
Thoughts on Greedy and if he’s there for the pick I feel like you have to take him?— Sean Huber (@seanhuber_) December 6, 2018
I'm a fan of LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, and if there isn't a clear-cut edge-rushing option when the Lions are on the clock in April, I'd have a hard time criticizing the pick. Williams is tall, long and doesn't allow many passes thrown his way to be completed.
My main concern is his weight and how that will impact his ability in run support as well as his durability.
Do we go after Bell?— Everything_King (@EverythingxKing) December 6, 2018
I'm going to assume you're asking about Le'Veon Bell and the answer should be no. He's looking for a massive contract that will compensate him based on his ability to be a workhorse who can produce big numbers rushing and receiving the ball.
If you're going to pony up $12-15 million per season, you better be prepared to lean on Bell for at least 75 percent of snaps. That wouldn't make sense in Detroit, with Kerryon Johnson in the mix.
Cast the Lion King with current roster.— PeeBs (@snidgen) December 6, 2018
►Mufasa: Matthew Stafford
►Ed: Darius Slay
►Simba: Kerryon Johnson
►Scar: A'Shawn Robinson. Although, I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to murder his own quarterback. But if he changes his mind, their lockers are right next to each other.
I feel the Lions have one of the worst uniforms in the NFL, both throwback and current. What are the chances of a complete reboot much like Denver and Tampa did killing their Orange. I'd love to see the current uniforms as the throwback and some excitement in the threads.— Randy Charboneau (@randycharb) December 6, 2018
I wouldn't count on it. The Honolulu blue — although I'm fairly certain the shade has changed a few times over the years — is part of the team's identity. And Detroit is in the second year of its recent uniform overall, which cut the black trim from the package, so I wouldn't expect anything new for the next several years.
What are some "unknown" college prospects entering the draft? Done any scouting on some mid/late round potential picks?#LionsMailBag— Josh Nelson (@RoarFromIA) December 6, 2018
I wouldn't call them unknown, but I'll give you a few lesser-known players on my radar. For Day 2, Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson and on Day 3, UMass slot receiver Andy Isabella and Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher.
Will we be getting a close look at Patrick Peterson this week? It was rumored Arizona might trade him this year. Think he might be a target of the Lions this off season?— DAVID ALEXANDER (@DAVIDDalexish) December 6, 2018
When I mentioned earlier about scouring the trade market for establish veterans, Peterson would certainly fit the bill. He's still in his prime at 28 and would make for a lethal 1-2 combo with Darius Slay. Peterson is also under contract for two more years.
I would imagine the Cardinals would aim to get a first-round pick in return, maybe more. That's not a price the Lions should be willing to pay, especially selecting near the top of the draft. But a second-rounder? Or two thirds? Sure, pull the trigger.
Who makes up the the core of essential players that are likely to be the foundation of this team moving forward? (By this I mean in season and out of season.)— keith (@oroman96) December 6, 2018
Here are the players that are near locks to be on the roster in 2020: Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson, Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, Da'Shawn Hand, Devon Kennard, Damon Harrison, Darius Slay, Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker and Jamal Agnew.
Jarrad Davis probably makes the cut, as well, but after a disappointing sophomore season, it's tough to say how the organization will feel about him in a year.
If you could cover any other team in the world (in any sport) what would it be?— Gurn (@mastergurn) December 6, 2018
If I could cover any sports team, the decision would be based long-term on where I'd like to live and short-term on the attitude of the organization toward the media. Among NFL teams, Seattle or Minnesota are two that quickly come to mind.
Worldwide, send me to Spain to cover FC Barcelona.
But if I'm being honest, I'd probably want to write about something other than sports. It's tough to feel like you're making a meaningful impact in the world writing about entertainment.
What is Snacks' contract status and what would it cost Detroit to keep him?— Jeremy (@social1assassin) December 6, 2018
He's under contract the next two seasons, at $6.75 million in 2019 and $9 million in 2020.
What one meal is quintessentially Detroit?— Kalsarikännit Al (@LethalSax) December 6, 2018
Not that it's a personal favorite, but it has to be coney dogs.
Does the production from Ansah over the next four weeks dictate whether or not the Lions try to bring him back?— Nick Moore (@NickAKAdad) December 6, 2018
No, it will be the entire body of work, over the past few seasons, with a focus on the most recent. Obviously, when healthy, Ziggy Ansah is still an impact player. But staying healthy has been a major issue. Since the Lions can't rely on his durability, they should move on this offseason.
It seems like 90% of the Lions' pass plays are outside the numbers. What does the film say? Don’t more teams attack the middle of the field?— Derek Maki (@dwmaki) December 6, 2018
I looked it up, using charting data from Pro Football Focus, and 45.6 percent of Stafford's throws are between the numbers. Comparing it to three of the more prolific passing attacks in football — New Orleans, Kansas City and Los Angles (Rams) — and Detroit actually throws to the middle of the field the most of the four.
What the Lions do less than many teams, particularly vertical attacks like the Rams and Chiefs, is attack the deep middle. But given the team's personnel, particularly the lack of a field-stretching slot receiver or tight end, this isn't surprising.
Curious why Lions didn’t pick up Kareem Hunt on waivers just to play him in the interim waiting on Johnson to return before he gets suspended. Then let him go. Not sure how that works. Looks bad sure ... but it’s not a Ray Rice situation.— Know The Toad (@JohnMillard3) December 6, 2018
Laying your hands on a woman, regardless of the situation, is, and should be, a career-killing move for professional athletes. It becomes an easier decision when there's video of the incident.
The Lions weren't about to break stride with the league and take the public backlash that would come with that decision.
In 2017, BQ made splash signings on the right side of the OL. In 2018, it was the LBs. Factoring in availability and need, what position group gets the most money thrown at it in 2019?— Griffin Malloy (@GriffinMalloy) December 6, 2018
It's tough to say what the market will actually look like once we get to March, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Quinn spend again on the offense line, going with a veteran at right guard compared to another rookie.
Bama grad here and don’t get to watch the Lions much. Curious as to what kind of season Hand has had and if A. Robinson has progressed at all. Thanks— Mason Bass (@mason_bbass) December 6, 2018
Both have been bright spots this season. I noted my impressions of Hand above, listing him as the biggest surprise on defense. Robinson, after being a healthy scratch in Week 1, has been stellar the rest of the year. He's been especially good against the run and the pairing with Harrison seems like something the Lions can build around up front this offseason.
Do you think the Lions O-line has improved, regressed or remained the same compared with last season?— James C Meyer (@trumanfrancis) December 6, 2018
T.J. Lang's injury issues really set back the group, but I would say there's been slight overall improvement. The team is on pace to give up as many sacks, but Stafford is facing less overall pressure and absorbing fewer hits in 2018. Also, I think we can clearly say there's been improvement in the ground game, with more consistent lanes for the backs.
That said, there's no way we can say the Lions have gotten a return close to matching the investment in the unit.
Although I hope they lose out, what is the scenario that the Lions make the playoffs still, since they technically haven't been eliminated?— Dennis Homminga Jr (@homminga_jr) December 6, 2018
ESPN has a playoff machine where you can work out these pipe-dream scenarios, but the Lions would need to win out and essentially have four of the five from Seattle, Washington and Philadelphia, Carolina and Minnesota fall apart.
You're filling a roster with Detroit beat writers, who plays what positions? Yourself included.— k (@KarlAlden) December 6, 2018
Dave Birkett at slot receiver, Kyle Meinke at free safety, Nate Atkins would be a fullback, Wojo at guard, Mike Rothstein is punting, Chris Burke has the mind and build to be our Mike linebacker and I'll handle the long snapping because this job and two young kids have taken away all my time to go to the gym.