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10 Questions with Tim Twentyman: Stafford's mechanics, return man questions and starting line-ups

Posted Jun 20, 2013

Detroitlions.com lead writer Tim Twentyman answers fan questions posed to him via Twitter

Each and every Thursday this offseason, I'll try and answer questions on the minds of Lions fans via my Twitter account @ttwentyman.

I receive a number of great questions throughout the week and it's about time I start addressing them on a regular basis. Feel free to disagree.

Here are 10 for this week:

Q. Stafford and the coaching staff were adamant his mechanics are not an issue. Is there an effort to correct them this year? Steve Blake (@steve_blake35)

20man: If they didn’t think there was an issue, what would they be trying to correct?

I really think the whole "bad mechanics" thing is overrated.

Stafford is a throwback quarterback in the sense that he’s creative and plays the game by feel. Kind of like he’s in the backyard in Texas. He can throw the ball from a lot of different angles and his arm strength is such that he can make any throw on the field.

Over the last two seasons he’s started all 16 games for the Lions, his completion percentage is a combined 61.65 percent, which isn't bad.

His percentage dropped from 63.5 percent in 2011 to 59.8 last season, which ranked 21st among quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts. That’s probably a little lower than the Lions would like, but also consider the Lions led the league with 45 dropped passes last year.

Matthew StaffordMatthew Stafford (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Stafford would be the first one to tell you that 2012 wasn’t good enough (4-12) and he’s always striving to get better. It's one of the reasons he stuck around the practice facility all offseason.

But he’s also never going to be as mechanically sound as Peyton Manning. That’s just not him. He’s probably closer to a Brett Favre type. Is that so bad?

You also have to consider the situation and the pass rush and a bunch of other factors that go into each and every throw.

I’ll end this question with something Jon Gruden told me last year when I asked him about Stafford’s mechanics.

"I think you have to have mechanics, don't get me wrong," Gruden said. "You have to have rhythm in your passing game. Every pattern has a distinct drop, there's a timing and a rhythm to it.

"But inevitably the pocket's going to collapse. There's going to be issues with every play where you have to alter your throwing motion, so I think sometimes we might over-analyze that a little bit.

"When you throw the ball 40-plus times a game, you're going to have some mechanical issues because of the rush, sensing passing lanes ... I mean (Texans defensive end) JJ Watt, if you don't alter your throwing motion at times you might get a lot of balls rejected."

Q. What do the #Lions do with young TEs they have in Joseph Fauria and Michael Williams? Is the 53-man roster going to be able to hold 4 TEs? Leo Barwela (@bigd92201)

20man: That’s a really a good question and the Lions will have to make that decision when they sit down after that fourth preseason game and determine who their top 53 and 46 players are.

Ideally, they’d probably want three, which is how they’ve worked it in previous seasons.

Fauria could be in a situation where he’d have to unseat incumbent Tony Scheffler for a spot, which won’t be an easy task. Scheffler and Fauria have similar styles in that they’re catch-first tight ends. I don’t really see a spot for both.

I think there will be three on the roster for Week 1. Brandon Pettigrew is No. 1 and is the all-around tight end in the group. They’ll want a catch-first kind of player like Scheffler, Fauria or the recently-signed Matt Veldman. They’ll probably want to fill out the position with a block-first tight end to play that H-back role.

In my opinion, Williams has the better chance of the two to make the squad because he can play the H-back. But again, training camp will decide all that.

Q. Akers isn't the long-term answer ... Do we stash Kickalicious on the practice squad to develop for the future? Robert Wedge (@bellsbeer7)

20man: Akers is 38. We saw Jason Hanson kick until he was 42. Kickers have a whole different career expectancy chart.

To put Havard "Kickalicious" Rugland on the practice squad would be a very rare example, but it’s not totally ludicrous.

For the Lions to consider that, they’d have to be blown away by his leg strength and potential, but think he needs a little more time to develop some consistency being new to the game.

The problem is how much practice time would he really get? He wouldn’t work through any game situations in practice.

It’s an interesting thought with Akers coming off a poor season and offseason surgery, but I think the Lions are going to have some tough roster decisions at other positions and those seven practice squad spots are going to be very valuable.

Q. After seeing OTA's, who are you most excited to see more of in mini-camp? Joe Newton (@bermuda221)

20man: I want to see Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah put the pads on and go against live competition.

Watching drills and non-padded team periods this offseason, I got a sense of how athletic the rookie is for his size (6-5, 271). He explodes out of the three-point stance and has terrific speed. The only thing left to see is how that translates to full contact and the preseason.

Cliff Avril had 39.5 sacks in five seasons with the Lions. Ansah and Jason Jones have some big shoes to fill.

Q. Who returns kickoffs and punts this year? Jim Wheeler (@jimwheeler81)

20man: I really can’t answer that until I see how guys operate with the rush bearing down on them and it really counts. That won’t be determined until training camp and the preseason.

I will give you a dark horse, though.

After watching the OTAs and mini-camp, it’s very clear that undrafted rookie running back Steven Miller is explosive (43-inch vertical) and reaches a gear others don’t.

He was Appalachian State’s No. 1 running back last year, so they couldn’t spare him on special teams. He still needs to improve fielding the ball, but he’s turned a few eyes this spring.

Reggie Bush will do it situationally and Ryan Broyles could even be in the mix when he gets back 100 percent, but keep an eye on Steven Miller.

Q. Does Devin Hester have anything left in him as a returner? Craig K (@jcraig24)

20man: He’s been the preeminent return man in the NFL over the last seven years and I don’t think his age (turns 31 in November) is a big factor because he hasn’t taken the beating other players have.

I now refer to the stat sheet.

His 8.3-yard average on punt returns last year was the third-lowest of his career, but he returned 24 kickoffs for a 25.9 average, which was the third-highest of his career.

We’re talking about a player who currently holds the NFL record for most all-time return touchdowns. I think he’s still better than most and I’d kick it away from him if I was coaching.

Q. What do you see as our weak spot? Une Ha Gomar (sp) (@NameBrandSmith)

20man: I think there’s a lot of unknown along the offensive line, but I’m not sure I’d call it a weak spot just yet.

There will be three new starters without a lot of experience there and those guys will have to mesh together and figure it out.

It’s the group with the most question marks heading into training camp, certainly.

Q. Will the Lions secondary be able to stop offensive powerhouses like the Packers and the Vikings? Jimmy Nott (@J_Nott)

20man: We’re talking about two teams that pose very different threats to a secondary.

The Packers test a secondary with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and those terrific set of receivers.

Taking on running back Adrian Peterson is no small task vs. the Vikings.

In all four opportunities last season, the defense didn’t get the job done.

I don’t think there’s any defense that can really stop the Packers’ passing attack.

The Packers faced two defenses last season that finished the year ranked in the top five against the pass -- 49ers and Cardinals. Rodgers threw for 303 yards and two scores vs. San Francisco in a loss and four touchdowns in a win vs. Arizona.

We all know what Adrian Peterson did against everybody last year.

Rodgers and Peterson are a lot like Calvin Johnson in that it doesn’t really matter how you scheme against them, they typically manage to find a way to get it done. It’s about limiting the damage and not letting guys beat you.

That being said, I think the Lions are better equipped for the task this season. They have depth in the secondary and hopeful their speed and length can make a difference both in the passing game and going up to stop the run.

Glover Quin was a great addition at safety they have a plethora of big, physical cornerbacks.

The Lions certainly need to figure something out because they can’t afford another 0-6 record against the Division in 2013.

Q. Who is playing first team opposite Quin? Adem Swanson (@AdemSwanson)

20man: The Lions are going to monitor Louis Delmas pretty close this season. Expect him to have days off in training camp and even during the season. The Lions are hoping that gets him on the field on Sunday.

I expect Delmas to play, but it has been good for the Lions to get Don Carey reps with the first team all offseason. Carey came on strong at the end of last year and he has the skillset the Lions like in the backend of their defense, with a background both as a safety and cornerback.

If the knee prevents Delmas from playing, Carey told me he’s ready to step in and he isn’t likely to skip a beat having played alongside Quin through OTAs and training camp.

"You never know when your number is going to be called, so to be able to get those quality reps with the (first team), it not only makes them comfortable with you, but you comfortable with them," Carey told me.

Q. Will Reggie Bush get the bulk of the carries this year or will the Lions divide them equally between Bush, Leshoure, and Bell? Bradley Baker (@bakerbradley76)

20man: I think it will vary from week-to-week, depending on the game plan, but I expect Bush – if he remains healthy – to end the season atop the Lions stat book in carries.

He brings the big-play punch the Lions have been lacking in their run game since Jahvid Best has been out.

The Lions don’t want to have to throw the ball 740 times again this year, so expect the 391 rushes they had in 2012 to increase next season.

There are going to be plenty of carries for Leshoure and Bell, but Bush probably gets slightly more, and certainly leads the group in receptions.

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