10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: What concerns do the Lions still have?

Posted May 23, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman answers questions from his Twitter (@ttwentyman) account on lingering concerns, DT Nick Fairley and more

From time to time this offseason I plan to answer 10 good questions I receive through my Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

What are still concerns for the Lions this season? Mr Boone 2 U (@1_BZY)

20man: Good question. I think two jump out right away for me.

1. The secondary. I like where the Lions are at safety with Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo, but there’s still some big question marks when it comes to the cornerback position. Is Darius Slay ready to be a starter? Will Chris Houston bounce back from a poor 2013 season and recent toe surgery? Can Rashean Mathis play as well as he did last year at 33 years old? Is fourth-round pick Nevin Lawson ready to play now? I could go on.

I think there are real question marks with that cornerback unit and that's why a player like Cassius Vaughn, a veteran with starting experience, was signed this offseason.

2. I thought the way quarterback Matthew Stafford finished last season was very disconcerting and he'll have to reshape some opinions early on this year. After a 6-3 start that saw Stafford throw 19 touchdowns to seven interceptions, he slumped down the stretch to the tune of 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in the final seven games, six of which were losses.

Let’s be real, though, Stafford didn’t exactly have a lot to work with at the end of the year when Megatron and Brandon Pettigrew were injured. But nonetheless, he has to play like the Stafford of the first nine weeks the entire way through this year. If he does that the Lions are onto something with all those new weapons.

What is the probable starting secondary? Dylan Hall (@DHALL_4)

20man: It kind of depends on the status of Houston and the competition in training camp, but as it stands right now, Quin and Ihedigbo are at safety, Mathis and Slay at cornerback and Bill Bentley in the slot.

If Houston comes back and is playing well, I could see him competing with Mathis for a spot and Mathis potentially moving inside to compete with Bentley at nickel cornerback.

Vaughn has been making plays early on, and he’ll take a shot at one of the jobs in camp, but it seems like Mathis and Slay’s job to lose.

Do you think it was a good or bad call to not take Fairley’s 5th yr. option? He was such a beast in the Bears game. Stuffing Forte. Joshua Cole (@ColeJoshua1)

Nick FairleyDT Nick Fairley (Photo: Gavin Smith)

20man: I think that’s really yet to be determined, Joshua.

I understand why general manager Martin Mayhew did it. It has to be frustrating on his end watching a guy with so much potential (more than Suh, yes, I said it) not take full advantage of it. The inconsistencies have to be maddening.

Mayhew thought it would be a kick in the pants for Fairley. If it is, the Lions should benefit in the short term, which fits with their win-now mantra.

In the long-term, however, they’re gambling on a quality player. Let’s not forget Fairley was a Pro Bowl alternate last season. If he has a Pro Bowl year, the price to re-resign him just got very expensive and puts the franchise and transition tags in play.

It’s a tough call, but I probably would have picked up the option.

Tim, do we have a true #3 wr? If Calvin or Golden goes down, we need someone to make plays. C.J. Eckman (@eckman44)

20man: That’s why the Eric Ebron pick was so important for them, C.J.

What people don’t realize is that Ebron is a big receiver who just so happens to play tight end. He’s going to be used as a receiver and he’s going to run receiver-type routes.

Debate all you want if it was the right choice at No. 10, but a player like him was a must because of the reason you just stated in your question.

Is Leshoure a lost cause? Where is Broyles in the recovery process? Coach Byers (@CoachjByers)

20man: This is actually two questions coach, but I’ll let it slide.

Let’s start with Leshoure. I don’t think he’s a lost cause. I actually talked to him Friday after OTA practice for a story this weekend and he has a whole new attitude. He admitted last season was tough, but this offense is very similar to the one New Orleans ran last year and four running backs had at least 53 carries in that system. He’s excited about that and happy he’s being given another chance to make a first impression on a new coaching staff. He seems to have a little pep in his step, if you know what I mean.

As for Broyles, he’s ahead of schedule. He’s already taking part in OTAs on a limited basis and the expectation is that he’ll be a participant in training camp. This is a big year for him. Mayhew recently said he hasn’t given up on Broyles yet, but Broyles has to reward that faith this year.

Watched tape of all picks, understand all but DE Webster, not impressed. What am I missing? Who am I? (@Flee2)

20man: It’s some of the little things you have to look at with Webster. His flexibility, the way he uses his hands. Webster is such a good athlete with a basketball background. He has a unique skillset because of the basketball.

He’s also big (6-6, 252) and fast (4.58 40-yard dash) off the edge. You can’t teach that.

There’s going to be an adjustment period with him, he’s a long way from Bloomsburg, but with the right coaching he can be a pretty versatile player on the open-end side.

Which of the UDFAs do you think are most likely to make the team and have an impact on the season? Colton Wesley (@Lionsfanatic7)

20man: The top three candidates are tackle Cornelius Lucas, fullback Chad Abram and safety Jerome Couplin.

If you look at the roster there’s an opening for both a fourth tackle and a fourth safety in Lucas and Couplin’s case.

Abram is competing with Jed Collins and Montell Owens, but his speed sets him apart from those two.

I don’t think all three will make it, but I could see one or two making the final 53. Lucas probably has the best chance out of the bunch at this point.

Most underrated pick from this years draft class? Ryan Smith (@smif6)

20man: Caraun Reid, the defensive tackle out of Princeton, has a shot to be that guy for me.

The Lions rotate their defensive lineman as much as any team in the league and Reid, if he wins that fourth spot, is going to get an opportunity to make plays.

He’s a penetrating tackle whose game is predicated more on speed than it is power – a lot like Nick Fairley's.

I’m not saying Reid will be Fairley, that’s too much to ask of him right away, but he has a chance to make some plays and be a pleasant surprise as a fifth-round pick.

Any insights on the kicking competition? Brandon Kerr (@SFHCommissioner)

20man: The Lions have two guys competing for the job – Giorgio Tavecchio and Nate Freese – but only one of those guys was drafted.

Freese was ultra consistent in college (86 percent) and the Lions spent a seventh-round draft pick to get him.

Freese has the edge because of his draft status, but the most accurate kicker in training camp will win it. It’s one of the easier competitions to evaluate in training camp.

Did the @Lions draft or sign any good leaders or solid chemistry guys? @Nate13Burleson will be missed. Kristopher Sills (@Patriotboy247)

20man: Nate’s locker room presence will be missed, certainly, but it was time for an upgrade at receiver.

His replacement is Golden Tate, who not only is a good player on the field, but he’s also a great locker room guy. He also has a Super Bowl ring, which should hold a lot of weight in that locker room.

The same thing can be said for Ihedigbo, good player, great locker room guy and has a Super Bowl ring.

Tate and Ihedigbo know what a winning locker room is like and they know that it takes improving the little things to take the next step.

Those have been good additions for the Lions.