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Detroit Lions: Questions to answer coming out of mock game

Detroit held their annual mock game last Saturday. Next Sunday is their first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. There are only 26 weeks until Super Bowl 52.


Bob Quinn and Jim Caldwell have a problem. Their best DEs are healing and their backups look like All Pros. As good as that sounds, they’re not that good. Like they say, there are two sides to every story and for Quinn and Caldwell, their problem isn’t on the defensive side of the ball but the offense side.

Edge problems

When starting LT Taylor Decker went down with a severe shoulder injury in June, Lions GM Bob Quinn didn’t waste any time and signed Buffalo free agent Cyrus Kouandjio and traded with the Rams for backup LT Greg Robinson. In Saturday’s mock game neither could hold their own. Both were ripped by not only Ziggy Ansah’s backups but by undrafted rookies Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga. It’s not good.

Quick whistles stopped play repeatedly to protect Matthew Stafford. The preseason and the first six weeks of the regular season Detroit will be facing some very elite pass rushers, such as Buffalo LB Lorenzo Alexander who had 12.5 sacks last year. The first game of the regular season may be the worst where Detroit faces the Arizona Cardinals and their two sack masters, both LBs, Chandler Jones 11 sacks and Markus Golden 12.5 sacks. By Week 3 the Lions play the defending NFC champions Atlanta Falcons with their sack happy LB/DE Vick Beasley who had 15.5 sacks last season.

When you consider Lions current LT’s Greg Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio were beaten by undrafted rookies last weekend, the opposition doesn’t need elite pass rushers to rein havoc on Stafford and the Lions passing game. Which means it’s going to be bad and then it’s going to get worse. The greatest fear is keeping Stafford healthy.

Run game can solve the issues

For the first time since Barry Sanders played the Detroit Lions have an offense capable of winning their division. Going back even further, Detroit finally has a legitimate franchise QB in Matthew Stafford. It’s a combination long overdue and not to be wasted. 

In order to keep Stafford healthy, the Lions running game is going to have to show up week in and week out. Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick need to stay healthy. Get that run game going and Stafford will be able to keep the defense guessing. One wrong call, one wrong block and the Lions season will come to an abrupt end.

Bob Quinn has one more card to play in an effort to fix his troubles. Last year he traded WR Jeremy Kerley to the San Francisco 49ers for backup OG Brandon Thomas who’s on the PUP list. That means he’s not even on the depth chart. Another player on the PUP list is OT Corey Robinson. Of course, no one knows the status of his recovery because Bob Quinn and Jim Caldwell have a policy of telling anyone who asks, “Check the injury report.” Robinson injured his foot at the end of last season and had surgery. Considering the state of things at left tackle, Corey Robinson has an opportunity to not only to get back on the field as soon as possible but to bring some focus to his game going forward.

Whatever Quinn, Caldwell and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter do between now and the first game of the season it better be really, really good. As for Matthew Stafford, I suggest he signs his new contract as soon as possible and lock in that guaranteed money while he’s still healthy.

Special teams

Punter Sam Martin is on the PUP list and is expected back by the end of preseason. He injured himself off the field this summer and no one is expecting anything serious to keep him out of the lineup. Matt Prater made a couple of 55-plus yard field goals during the mock game, so, he’s in regular season form. 

Two key positions that are an open competition are punt and kick returners. Dwayne Washington has been getting starter reps at kick return, which may be an indication he needs to solidify that role just to make the roster. He didn’t have a strong campaign running the ball his rookie year so special teams could be his ticket to stick around. 

The most inspiring play during the mock game came from rookie punt returner Jamal Agnew, who returned his second punt for a touchdown. The mock game did not allow tackling, but none of the defenders came close to touching Agnew. The University of San Diego CB runs a 4.3 40-yard dash and get him in the open where he can turn it loose and there is a very short list of NFL players who can catch this kid. One more play like that in the preseason and Agnew will punch his ticket to the Lions opening day roster. Not bad for a kid who played before an average crowd of 800.

Preseason – Indianapolis Colts

The preseason starts this Sunday for the Lions at Indianapolis. August 10 and 11 the two teams will have a joint practice. Under Jim Caldwell, joint practices have become more of the norm during preseason. In Week 3 of the preseason, Detroit will hold another joint practice, this time with the New England Patriots. Get ready. Anyone needing their annual football fix only has a few days to go. Just remember to pace yourself because Matthew Stafford probably won’t see any more than one series.

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Detroit Lions: Questions to answer coming out of mock game

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