Video mailbag: Lions training camp edition

Some good questions on Jared Goff, Malcolm Rodriguez, Tyrell Crosby and more

You’ve got questions, we’ve got some answers.

The latest edition of the Lions Wire video mailbag, done in conjunction with the Detroit Lions Podcast, is now available. Several premium podcast members asked some good questions on the Lions and what’s going on with the team during training camp.

A few of the topics:

  • Malcolm Rodriguez and his size limitations
  • Jared Goff coverage
  • RB vs. LB value
  • What happened with Tyrell Crosby?
  • Quintez Cephus bubble watch

We’ll do the next edition of the mailbag after the second preseason game. If you want to get questions in, check out how to join the fun over at Detroit Lions Podcast.

Listen: Detroit Lions Podcast summer kickoff episode

On the training camp fan experience, Jared Goff’s future, Romeo Okwara, the 6th annual training camp party and more

The latest episode of the Detroit Lions Podcast is now available for your viewing and listening pleasure.

This episode focuses on the upcoming training camp. We give you different ways to watch and interpret the action on the Lions’ practice fields, as well as what to pay attention to. It’s a nice preview of the fan experience of attending training camp.

Speaking of training camp, we are hosting our 6th annual training camp party on July 30th and revealed a couple of special guests who have confirmed to be in attendance, including an active Lions player. Details on how to register and get tickets are available at Detroit Lions Podcast.

The other main topics include the concept of drafting a quarterback in 2023 depending on Jared Goff’s success, and what happens with Romeo Okwara in 2022.

We also discussed the Lions Wire poll about what worries fans the most about the upcoming season and offered our own answers.

Video Mailbag: On rookies, roster projections, potential disappointments and more

Detroit Lions Podcast Video Mailbag: On rookies, roster projections, potential disappointments and more

You have questions, we have answers.

The latest edition of the Detroit Lions Podcast mailbag is here. Fresh for the start of summer, I answered several questions from the podcast Patreon Slack channel.

Among the topics covered:

  • What would be considered a success for CB Jeff Okudah?
  • Are the Lions a playoff team?
  • Which players have the potential to disappoint relative to fan expectations?
  • Surprise cuts in Detroit?
  • What to expect from T.J. Hockenson and what impact that will have on his next contract?

We’ll do another one after the first week of training camp, which kicks off in just under a month. This episode is suitable for all ages.

Watch: Lions draft video mailbag

A Lions draft mailbag video answering some questions with the Detroit Lions Podcast

It’s time for another edition of the Lions Wire video mailbag!

In conjunction with the Detroit Lions Podcast, I fielded several questions about the Lions and the upcoming 2022 NFL draft. From overarching strategy to specific player breakdowns, we covered quite a few different angles. It wraps with a question on the long-term status and confidence in current QB, Jared Goff, that hopefully helps sort out why the Lions might do what they might do this weekend.

Watch: Video mailbag on the Lions draft options and positional leadership

Our Jeff Risdon answers some questions on the Lions draft prospects, team leadership and more

It’s time for another video mailbag. In conjunction with the Detroit Lions Podcast, I fielded some questions on the Lions and the upcoming 2022 NFL draft.

There were some good questions on the quarterback situation in Detroit and how the Lions might attack the long-term uncertainty at the situation. As expected, Malik Willis is a hot topic.

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On a different front, there was a smart question about leadership amongst the players and how important that is in the team’s power structure. I also offered up my Super Bowl prediction and handled a few other questions from the Detroit Lions Podcast and its Slack channel.

Video mailbag: On roster strengths, draft needs, Dan Campbell and more

This episode has a series of great questions about the Lions particularly looking ahead to the draft, assessing the most recent draft and evaluating the current class of undrafted free agents.

In conjunction with the Detroit Lions Podcast, Lions Wire’s Jeff Risdon answered a series of questions on the current state of the Detroit Lions and where the team looks to the future.

This episode has a series of great questions about the Lions particularly looking ahead to the draft, assessing our most recent draft, and evaluating our current class of undrafted free agents. Risdon goes in-depth and shares where the Lions have improved positionally and where they still have areas of need. He talks running back, cornerback, defensive line, and a whole lot more. A great breakdown of the current Detroit Lions team, what to expect, and what the team should do to be competitive in the NFL for the rest of the 2021 NFL season and in seasons to come.

Watch: Video mailbag on the Lions roster choices, front office decisions and more

Our Jeff Risdon answers a wide range of mailbag questions via video

Instead of the traditional mailbag segment, we decided to try something a little more dynamic. In conjunction with the Detroit Lions Podcast, I fielded questions from the podcast listeners and answered their inquiries on video.

We got some great questions about the receiving corps, what possible acquisitions could be coming during the season, the philosophy of Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell and much more.

Be sure to check out our interview with Lions CB Jerry Jacobs from Wednesday, too.

Establishing the 53: Wrapping up the mailbag, part 3

Answering the reader’s mailbag questions after Erik Schlitt’s Establishing the 53 series of articles at Lions Wire.

After the conclusion of my “Establishing the 53” series of articles, I posed a question to the #OnePride fan base on Twitter asking for any mailbag questions surrounding my conclusions.

I answered the three most asked questions in Part 1 of the Mailbag, focused on the linebackers in Part 2, but there are still a few more great questions to answer. So let’s wrap up the mailbag here with Part 3.

Note: questions may have been edited for clarity.

I suspect the Lions really want a fulltime FB, they would fear losing Blough off the PS, and they lust for safeties — which would mean 1 more making the team. — @jhsthethird

I agree with all three of these concerns and even addressed the need for an extra safety in part 1 of the mailbag when I added C.J. Moore back into my 53-man projection.

As far as a fullback, Nick Bawden is the obvious front runner and his contributions on special teams surely help his cause, but at the end of the day the Lions would likely have to go light at another position — keeping only five wide receivers or eight offensive linemen — to make room for him. It’s possible that happens, but it would go a bit against the grain of previous rosters constructions.

Unfortunately, the same issue with roster space applies to Blough as well. He has shown he has the mental makeup and potential to develop with time, but if the Lions were truly all in on him making the 53, they probably wouldn’t have given Chase Daniel the type of contract they did. If the Lions are truly worried they may lose him off the practice squad, don’t be surprised if they give him salary close to what he is making now ($675,000) to encourage him to stick around.

It seems that you have all but one draft pick sticking on the roster. Does that mean you think the Lions really did well in the late rounds of the draft? — @IgorPetrinovic

The one draft pick I didn’t have making my 53-man projection was seventh-round pick defensive lineman Jashon Cornell (Ohio State), as I had him being edged out by last year’s UDFA gem Kevin Strong. My exclusion is less a knock on Cornell and more of a compliment to Strong who flashed last season. If Cornell impresses in camp, he surely has a shot to make it into the rotation.

One of the reasons I typically include a lot of rookies from the Lions draft class is based on the methodical nature of general manager Bob Quinn. He rarely veers from his offseason game plan and when he identifies a player and uses draft capital on him, it’s generally for an immediate purpose.

For example, in the four previous seasons, Quinn has only cut the following drafted rookies in training camp:

  • 2019: his final draft pick, PJ Johnson
  • 2018: none
  • 2017: final pick Pat O’Conner, and second to last pick Brad Kaaya
  • 2016: second to last pick Jimmy Landes

Will the Lions add more depth to the DL/pass rush before the season? Looks to be a weak spot again this season. — @thespartyabides

The interior defensive line surely has the potential to be a weak spot with concerns surrounding Da’Shawn Hand and Kevin Strong’s health, Nick Williams’ lack of scheme familiarity, unproven rookies in Cornell and John Penisini, and the struggles to create pressure from this group last season.

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But if the Lions are going to add a player in free agency, the top name on the market is a familiar one: Mike Daniels.

Adding Daniels on an incentive-laden deal would be wise — if the Lions can get him on board with it — as he loves the Lions organization and coaches, and when healthy has the upside to fill an interior pass-rushing role the team desperately needs.

You have the Lions keeping 9 OL and 3 are tackles. With 3 IOL that are rookies or 2nd-year players. How likely is it that they stick with that much youth and clustered in the interior vs trying to add/keep a vet? Do you think they are satisfied with their tackle depth? — @KuehnObserve

I do think they are satisfied with their tackle depth, and while it’s not overly sexy having Kenny Wiggins as a fourth option, I believe they would rather lean on him in an emergency option rather than keep a roster spot for a player who can only play at tackle, like Dan Skipper or free agents like Demar Dotson and Andre Smith who are the top right tackles on the market.

As far as the interior, having three veterans and three rookie/sophomores is livable, especially if they keep a player like Oday Aboushi on speed dial.

Establishing the 53: Mailbag, part 2 is all about the LBs

Answering the reader’s mailbag questions after Erik Schlitt’s Establishing the 53 series of articles at Lions Wire.

After the conclusion of my “Establishing the 53” series of articles, I posed a question to the #OnePride fan base on Twitter asking for any mailbag questions surrounding my conclusions.

I answered the three most asked questions in Part 1 of the Mailbag, but there are still plenty of great questions to answer. So let’s get started.

Note: questions may have been edited for clarity

How are the Lions going to get pressure on the QB using a 3-3-5 alignment? — @joseph_xuereb

Last season the Lions were one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the league. As Jeff Risdon pointed out in his review of the first quarter of last season, the Lions found early success only rushing three linemen, but that turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing, as the team still had confidence rushing three later in the season even when it stopped working.

While the Lions did go a bit heavier in their three rusher alignments last season, for the majority of snaps they did rush four, with the extra pass rusher being JACK linebacker Devon Kennard.

One of the advantages of using a 3-3-5 set is you can disguise where the fourth rusher is coming from, but last year it was obvious to offenses that it would almost always be Kennard because he lacked the range to drop into coverage, and they were prepared for him.

This lack of range ultimately led to Kennard’s release and was likely a major reason why the Lions targeted Jamie Collins to replace him in the starting lineup.

Collins’ range will pair nicely with skill sets of Jahlani Tavai and Christian Jones and it appears the Lions may be looking to expand Jarrad Davis’ role. The addition of Collins will give the coaches options on where to bring pressure from, and in turn, should disguise the Lions’ defensive intentions.

This should also afford the Lions the opportunity to incorporate more blitzes into their game plans, allowing them to bring a 4th and sometimes 5th rusher from unique angles.

They still have to execute on the field, but the flexibility in their linebacker group should give them more options than they have previously had.

Jahlani Tavai, I believe, will be our consistent mike backer. I think they like him as the “voice” of the defense. Do you believe Tavai can play the mike position consistently? — @michaelman1212

As I eluded to in the previous question, I believe the Lions will be deploying their linebackers in several different spots, rotating players through positions, in order to confuse offenses. And while that means different players will line up at the MIKE, I agree Tavai could take on the traditional MIKE responsibilities.

One of the main jobs of the MIKE is to wear the “green dot” helmet and relay in the defensive play calls. During Davis’ first three seasons in the league that was his responsibility, but last year the Lions expanded that job to other players including Tavai.

The Lions typically allow their day two draft picks to slowly acclimate to the league during their rookie season — Tavai was a second-round pick in 2019 — and by year two they take on a much larger role. With Davis in a contract year, expect to see Tavai wear the green dot helmet quite a bit in 2020.

With both Jamie Collins and Christian Jones on the roster, could you see the Lions running a SAM LB more often in the scheme in order to get them both on the field? — @paullymac7

Typically the Lions only deploy a traditional SAM linebacker when they use four down linemen, which only happens against run-heavy offenses like the Minnesota Vikings.

That being said, the JACK linebacker spot looks primed to be adjusted and it’s possible that role will show more SAM-like qualities — especially if the Lions plan to disguise intentions.

As far as getting both Collins and Jones on the field at a time, I think there is plenty of opportunities to do so. Both players can play at the WILL, JACK, and SAM, and with the rotation levels the Lions use — last year four Lions’ linebackers saw over 52-percent of snaps — there is room for Collins, Jones, Tavai, and Davis to all get starter-level reps.

Reggie Ragland going to practice squad? — @CraigFe60141609

Leaving Ragland out of my projections got a big reaction on social media, but I stand by my assessment of him being an excellent scheme fit but only providing minimal value on special teams — something he will need to get better at quickly if he wants to win the fifth linebacker role.

As far as Craig’s question, under the 2019 practice squad rules, Ragland, who has three years accrued experience, would not have been eligible for the practice squad, but under the new CBA, he is now eligible. This season the practice squad will include 12 players, of which two can have any level of NFL experience — which makes Ragland eligible.

Now Ragland may not want to take a practice squad role but if he comes up empty on the free-agent market, it may be in his best interest to return to Detroit as a potential “practice squad elevation” player due to his fit in the defense. The Lions could also entice him by offering him a higher salary to stick around on the practice squad in an emergency role.

Does Miles Killebrew’s contract make him more of a lock than we may otherwise think? It appears he signed a deal that qualifies under the new CBA for the “mid-level” veteran salary benefit. So he only counts $1.047M against the cap, but $1M is guaranteed. Seems safe to me. — @swarheit

To push Scott’s point further, Killebrew not only has $1 million in guaranteed salary but he also got $137,500 in a signing bonus. That means his cap hit is indeed $1.047 million in 2020 but it would increase to $1.375 million in dead cap if they release him — meaning it would actually cost the Lions $90,000 more to cut him than keep him.

So why did I have Killebrew on the outside of my 53-man projection?

Killebrew was one of the final few decisions I made when rounding out my projection, with it coming down to him or fellow special teams demon Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Both are dynamic pieces on special teams but are only emergency level defenders and I’m not sure the Lions will be able to keep multiple special teams only players.

Additionally, while his contract is very team-friendly, the additional $90,000 — or $1.375 million for that matter — is just drop in the bucket overall and I don’t believe it will deter the Lions from moving on if they need roster space.

There’s a real chance he finds his way onto the roster for a fifth season but he will likely have to make his money in the pre-season.

Establishing the 53: Answering the mailbag, Part 1

Answering the reader’s mailbag questions after Erik Schlitt’s Establishing the 53 series of articles at Lions Wire.

After the conclusion of my “Establishing the 53” series of articles, I posed a question to the #OnePride fan base on Twitter asking for any mailbag questions surrounding my conclusions.

Let’s take a closer look at some of those questions in Part 1 of our mailbag.

Jamal Agnew

I received several questions surrounding my inclusion of Jamal Agnew on my 53-man roster projection, mostly centered around the following concerns:

  • kick returner value in the NFL is diminishing due to new rules
  • he will be challenged by fifth-round rookie Jason Huntley
  • he has been inconsistent as a punt returner and nickel corner
  • C.J. Moore, who was left off the projection, could have more roster value as a starting gunner and safety depth

All four of these concerns have merit, and it’s possible one (or more) of these reasons is why the Lions are moving Agnew to wide receiver.

With the news of this position switch, and how I believe the Lions will use Agnew on offense, I adjusted my 53-man projection by removing gadget tight end Hunter Bryant and adding Moore to defense/special teams.

As the only player in the NFL to have four kicks/punts returned for touchdowns in the last three seasons, I still believe Agnew has the inside track for return duties, giving him an edge to make the 53 — and if he can also provide some gadget work on offense, all the better.

Beau Benzschawel

Another player who I received multiple questions on was second-year offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel, but unlike Agnew, questions concerning Benzschawel ranged from should he make the roster to could he win a starting role?

I have Benzschawel making the 53 as a reserve right now based on the fact that the Lions kept him on the active roster all of last season despite not playing him and the things I’ve heard about his progress in practices. If the Lions keep nine offensive linemen, I firmly believe Benzschawel makes the team, but if the Lions only keep eight (because of new roster rules being put in place this year) his spot may be in jeopardy.

When do (the rosters) go to 55 players? — @MMoneynva

With a new CBA in place this season, there are a few rules changes for rosters — the most notable being a roster expansion.

While teams can have up to 55 players on their active rosters in any given week, there are some caveats that go along with it.

First, there will only be 53 everyday players on the active roster, but teams can promote up to two players from the practice squad each week to increase the roster up to 55. That additional one/two players can only be promoted for the week and after the week’s conclusion (after the game), the player(s) will revert back to the practice squad.

Second, a player can only be promoted from the practice squad to the active roster twice in a season before they become susceptible to waivers. Meaning if a player is promoted a third time, they will have to clear league waivers at the end of the week before the team can re-sign them in any capacity.

Third, in order for a team to be eligible to promote any player, they must carry a minimum of eight offensive linemen on their active roster.

Most teams only keep seven offensive linemen active on game days, yet keep nine to ten on the active roster for injury insurance and/or development. With the implementation of the new promotion rule, some teams may decide to keep less offensive linemen on the active roster as they can promote from within if there is an injury.

Benzschawel is an example of a player who was kept as injury insurance/development in 2019 but could find himself on the practice squad in 2020 if he keeps the same role and the Lions need another spot on the roster.

The third addendum above — carrying eight offensive linemen — allows teams the flexibility to stash a role player like Benzschawel but also keeps them from taking advantage and placing all reserve offensive linemen on the practice squad.