LIONS INSIDER

10 Question with Twentyman: Who does he want to see progress the most this season?

Posted Jul 11, 2013

Detroitlions.com lead writer Tim Twentyman takes to Twitter to answer questions on the minds of Lions fans

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 time I start addressing them on a regular basis. Feel free to disagree with my answers.

Here are 10 for this week:

Q. Who do YOU want to see the most progress this year? Marty Stouffer (@Martifilus)

20man: One of those second-year cornerbacks would be a good choice, but I think it's more important to the defense that defensive tackle Nick Fairley takes a big step forward in his progress.

We've seen how good Fairley can be in stretches, but he needs to be a consistent 16-game performer. If Fairley can get past some of the inconsistencies he's shown over the last two years, he actually has the potential to be even more disruptive than Ndamukong Suh.

We know Suh is going to be in shape and ready to roll for 16 games. If Fairley can join him, the Lions just might have the most disruptive set of defensive tackles in the league, like Fairley suggested.

It'll also make things a lot easier for some of those new defensive ends.

Q. Break down the possibility and what we have to do to lead the division, and do you personally think it's possible? Bryan Rhodes (@B3forLife)

20man: The Packers are still the team to beat. They've made the playoffs the last four years, have won a Super Bowl during that stretch and feature an MVP quarterback.

If the Lions are going to unseat the Packers three things need to happen:

1. They need to stay healthy. They can't go through another season like 2012 where they're signing players off the street and have backups as starters. The offensive line, the receiving corps and the secondary all need to stay healthy.

2. Matthew Stafford has to have a 2011-type season. When the Lions won 10 games in 2011, Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. The yards aren't as important, but Stafford needs to get back into the 35-plus-touchdown range. He does that and the Lions will win games.

3. The defensive line needs to be dominant. The big fellas upfront fuel this entire defense. The Lions have seen their sack totals drop each of the last three seasons. Another year of 34 sacks and not one player reaching double-digit sacks won't cut it.

Suh needs to continue to be Suh, but Fairley, Jason Jones, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, Willie Young, Israel Idonije, C.J. Mosley and Co. need to be good. They need to be disruptive and they need to be better against the run. The Lions have spent considerable resources to retool that defensive line and they need to be right about the choices they made.

Q. How has Devin Taylor been progressing since the draft? Any chance of him starting? Scary thinking of him and Ziggy either side! Denis Kelly (@DenisKelly_Real)

20man: Like any rookie, his head was spinning a bit. He has the size and athleticism the Lions like, but I think he's a player who needs to continue to refine his technique and learn how to rush the quarterback in the NFL.

With veterans like Jones, Young and Idonije on the roster, I don't see Taylor cracking the starting lineup right away. Jones will start on the left and Ansah has a great shot to start on the right side.

Taylor will have an opportunity to crack the rotation in training camp and the preseason. The Lions like to rotate players in and out along that line, so he should see reps, but he's not likely to start.

Q. Why do national media writers and critics have nothing but bad things to say about @Staff_9? They give him no credit at all. Leo Barwela (@bigd92201)

20man: Well, honestly, Stafford didn't have a great 2012 season. Yeah, he threw for almost 5,000 yards, but his touchdowns dropped from 41 the previous season to 20 and he threw 17 interceptions. Let's not forget the Lions went 4-12 and didn't win a game within their division.

Obviously, that's not all Stafford's fault, but the quarterback gets the praise when a team wins and they get the criticism when they lose. That's just the nature of the position.

You're probably referring to Ron Jaworski's list of the top quarterbacks and Stafford coming in at No. 16 on the list. I think that's a little low. I don't think there are 15 quarterbacks I'd take over Stafford if I was going to start a franchise.

All the mechanics talk and all of that is a little overrated, in my opinion. When the Lions become a consistent winner with Stafford under center, then he'll start getting the recognition. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and some of the other “elite" quarterbacks win games. It's that simple.

Q. If you were starting a franchise tomorrow whom would you take at QB Stafford or Kaepernick? Martin Speller (@Martin18Speller)

20man: Good question. Can I have Andrew Luck? My top two right now would be Luck and Aaron Rodgers.

If I had to choose between Stafford and Kaepernick, I'd take Stafford, because I think he's a better passer. This is a passing league and I want the guy with the better arm.

What Kaepernick brings to the table with his legs is a great bonus, but I want the arm. In the end, it always comes down to a throw.

Q. Who steps up as Z receiver opposite Calvin w/ Broyles in the slot? Corey Fuller? Patio Beef (@MacklinWhite)

20man: Right now, it's Nate Burleson. I know Burleson turns 32 in August, but he's a reliable option opposite Megatron. He caught at least 55 passes from 2009-2011 and was on pace for another 50-plus-catch season last year before the broken leg in Week 7.

Burleson was running with the first-team offense for most of OTAs and the mini-camp.

The one other player I could maybe seeing pushing him at this point would be Patrick Edwards, who looked great this spring.

Fuller is adjusting to the NFL, where it's more about precision than it is speed. Everybody is just as fast as him up here; he's learning to become crisper with his breaks and staying low. It's going to take a little time.

Q. Last one cut, last man to make the Lions roster? BS1_0 (@bs09090)

20man: Last one cut depends on so many factors that it's way too early to try and predict that.

In terms of the last man to make the roster, again, that will depend on a number of factors, but I can guess that might be the last running back to make the roster.

This is my own theory, but I think it's possible for the Lions to keep five running backs on the roster this year because of the signing of Montell Owens.

Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell and Owens are all the same type of runner, but Owens is so valuable on special teams that he makes the roster.

That leaves the Lions with just one “speed" back in Reggie Bush if they were to only keep four. I think that last spot could go to either Steven Miller or Theo Riddick, who both showed terrific speed in OTAs and mini-camp.

Whoever of those two can make a bigger impact on special teams probably makes the roster.

The other is a great candidate for the practice squad if he isn't picked up.

Q. How about a focus on the 'new' old man Dominic Raiola and the competition to back him up? Greg Courter (@Grinner6)

20man: When we're talking about the center position, at this point, we are talking about the backup spot.

Raiola took all the first-team snaps this spring and he'll enter training camp as the No. 1 guy.

Darren Keyton, Dylan Gandy, Rodney Austin and Bill Nagy will try to unseat Raiola. Gandy, Austin and Nagy will also fight for one of the guard spots.

Austin might have the best chance to win the job. He's very athletic at 311 pounds, but he'd have to have a very good preseason to unseat Raiola.

Nagy will have a chance if he can get past the ankle injury and get on the field come training camp and Gandy will get a shot, too, but I think Stafford is taking snaps from Raiola Week 1 vs. Minnesota.

Q. How does the lions kicking competition play out? Still up in the air between Kickalicious and Akers? Brandon (@bschro27)

20man: It's really Akers' job to lose, Brandon. Havard "Kickalicious" Rugland has been a great story and he certainly has a powerful leg, but if he wins the job, then the Lions were wrong about Akers and the player they thought they were signing when Jason Hanson retired.

Akers is a veteran player who's only one season removed from the Pro Bowl. He struggled last year through injury, but both the Lions and Akers feel that's behind him and they're excited to start kicking when training camp begins in less than three weeks.

Now, if Rugland boots every kick through the end zone in the preseason and makes every field goal, then he can certainly win the job, but I think Akers would either have to falter, or Rugland would have to be spectacular, for him to win the job.

Q. How does the LB corps look and will they be improved this year? Seemed like there were a lot of missed assignments last year. Rick (@therick3745)

20man: I thought missed tackles from that group were a problem at times last year. I think having a healthy Stephen Tulloch in the middle will make a difference and makes the unit as a whole better. He played through tendinitis in a knee all of last year and it slowed him down some.

The real question mark with this group is going to be who fills that open spot left vacant by Justin Durant leaving via free agency. They can't afford to take a step back there.

The Lions' defensive scheme puts a lot of pressure on its linebackers because the attacking style they play upfront. The good thing going for that unit is that all the players have been in the system. They know it and its only natural to be more comfortable and able to play faster one extra year in the scheme.