LIONS INSIDER

10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Which matchup could favor Detroit?

Posted Nov 17, 2017

Tim Twentyman answers 10 fan-submitted questions as the Lions prepare for their Week 11 matchup against the Bears.

Every week during the regular season Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: The truth of the matter is he’s buried on the depth chart behind Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington. A lot of people ask me why Washington over Zenner? The answer is that this current regime drafted Washington (don’t discount that fact), and they like his combination of speed and power. He’s bigger, faster and nimbler in the open field, which are all factors in why he’s ahead of Zenner on the depth chart.

The reality is that neither player has been overly impressive in the power back role this year. Washington has 20 carries and is averaging 2.2 yards per carry. Zenner had a 14-yard run earlier this year, but his other nine carries have netted two total yards. He’s averaging 1.6 yards per carry.

Washington left last week’s game with a hip injury and sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday. That’s not a particularly good sign for his availability Sunday. If he can’t go, I’d expect Zenner to get another opportunity in that role, unless this coaching staff throws a curve ball and activates Tion Green.

20man: Detroit’s receivers should have the edge on the outside against Bears cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller.

Both Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate are playing at a really high level right now. They’re really on the same page with quarterback Matthew Stafford. I’d include TJ Jones in that mix too. Kenny Golladay is working his way back, but he also showed some good things last week.

Quarterbacks this season have a 103.4 passer rating when throwing at Amukamara and a 92.1 rating when attacking Fuller.

Another very good matchup on paper is Detroit’s secondary vs. Chicago’s passing game. Chicago’s leading pass catcher is a running back (Tarik Cohen), who has 29 receptions. Chicago’s leading receiver (Kendall Wright) has just 27 receptions. The Bears’ passing offense ranks 31st in the NFL (169.8).

Those are the two clear advantages the Lions have going in.

20man: It better.

The Bears have two talented running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen that can control a game if the Lions let them. There’s no question Chicago will come into the contest trying to establish the run and make things easier for their rookie quarterback. Chicago’s inability to get that part of their offense going last week was a contributing factor in their loss to Green Bay.

The Lions’ defense has been a little frustrating in that regard this season. They rank in the top 10 in run defense, but it’s been inconsistent. They’ve either been great, or given up big performances. Three times this season the Lions have given up more than 150 yards on the ground. They lost two of those games – Atlanta and New Orleans.

The issues last week vs. Cleveland, who rushed for 201 yards, were poor run fits and even poorer tackling at times. Those issues have to get cleared up and cleared up quick.

20man: It’s been an injury-plagued two years. Let’s make that distinction. When healthy, Ansah is one of the most gifted athletes in the game.

Unfortunately for him, his game is predicated on explosion and speed, and the injuries that have piled up the last two years have zapped him of that. I would be a little surprised if the Lions decided to move on from their former first-round pick after just five years, one of those years being a Pro Bowl season in 2015 that saw him record 14.5 sacks. The only way I see them moving on is if they think some of the injury stuff he’s dealing with is a chronic issue.

They have a number of options available to them to keep Ansah around if they want to.

20man: I think part of Ebron’s problem at the beginning of the year was that he dropped a couple balls early, started to hear the boos, and he lost some confidence. This game is filled with confident men, you can’t play it without it.

I think Ebron’s regained his confidence after making plays he knows he can make and has made in the past, and he’s playing with a ton of confidence right now. I’d expect that to continue the remainder of the season.

20man: I typically don’t engage in this kind of stuff until after the season, but what the heck.

My top three off the top of my head right now would be a young defensive tackle to pair with A’Shawn Robinson, another pass rusher – because teams can never have too many of them – and a running back with some power.

20man: He’s certainly smart enough and physical enough to eventually make the move to strong safety in the future, but I wouldn’t mess with a good thing right now.

Among nickel cornerbacks, Diggs is ranked fifth-best by Pro Football Focus this year in terms of how many receptions he gives up vs. times in coverage. He’s a very smart football player in the middle of the defense, and he doesn’t shy away from contact in the least bit. He’s giving the Lions exactly what you want from a slot corner.

20man: I’m a numbers kind of guy, so, let’s take a look at the numbers, per PFF.

Nevin Lawson has been thrown at 33 times, and has allowed 22 receptions (70 percent) for 329 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Opposing passers have a 111.8 passer rating when throwing Lawson’s way.

DJ Hayden has been thrown at 31 times, and has allowed 16 receptions (51.6 percent) for 175 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Quarterbacks have a passer rating of 68.6 when throwing at Hayden.

Lawson is the more physical of the two, and probably a little better against the run.

By numbers alone, Hayden has performed better, but head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin have said on multiple occasions that both bring a unique skill set to the field, and they like to play both players in certain packages. I’d expect that to continue.

20man: Chunk plays in the run game are really a result of 10 guys doing their job. All five players upfront have to get their blocks, there’s always one free defender the back has to make miss, and receivers down the field have to be willing blockers on the second and third levels. I wouldn’t attribute just one player being back as the biggest factor why we saw some consistent chunk plays in the run game vs. Cleveland.

I just thought collectively, as a unit, that was one of the better run-blocking performances by the offensive line and the receivers.

The Lions should have the offensive line they envisioned having at the beginning of the year – Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, Travis Swanson, T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner – starting for the first time together this season in Chicago. It will be interesting to see what having their top five upfront will mean for not only the run game moving forward, but every part of the offense.

20man: Historically, 10 wins is the mark to get a wild card berth, but there have been years recently when a 10-win team didn’t get in. Getting to 11 wins just about guarantees it.

Looking at the standings in the NFC, it appears at least 10 wins is a must this year.

Philadelphia has eight wins, and there’s four teams behind them with seven wins. Of those seven-win teams, Minnesota (7-2), New Orleans (7-2) and Los Angeles (7-2) still have seven games to play. The 7-3 Panthers have six games remaining. Seattle is 6-3, which means the five-win teams as of right now are outside the playoff picture looking in.

There’s still a lot of football to be played, and a lot of the teams at the top of the conference have some tough games ahead of them. It should be a great playoff race down the stretch. Lions fans should expect at the very least 10 wins to be the benchmark they have to get to.