10 Questions with Twentyman: After two preseason games what do the Lions need to work on?

Posted Aug 16, 2013

With two preseason games in the books, Tim Twentyman answers 10 questions on what he's observed so far

The preseason is half over and the regular season is just three weeks away. Now seemed as good a time as any to answer my Twitter mailbag at @ttwentyman.

What has been the most disappointing position battle of the preseason? From JJ Bowsher (@vegasboundjj)

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

20man: For me it's been the lack of a No. 2 receiver stepping forward. Thursday night's game in Cleveland provided the perfect backdrop for someone to step to the forefront with Calvin Johnson sitting out. Instead, they all fell flat.

There is growing concern on that front for me. I still like Ryan Broyles in the slot, and he's going to be good when he gets all the way back, but Nate Burleson has yet to catch a pass in the preseason and Patrick Edwards has three catches for 10 yards. Where's the separation? Where's the vertical threat?

Don't be surprised if the team isn't done adding to the roster at that position.

How concerned should we be with the secondary considering Mark Sanchez and Brandon Weeden have carved us up in consecutive games? From PRP (@Pspice07)

20man: There should be plenty of concern there after the first two performances, but let's not forget the Lions have played without safety Louis Delmas and are playing a lot of vanilla looks in the evaluation process.

The bad part about the vanilla looks part, though, is that guys aren't making plays in man coverage in situations designed to test their individual cover skills. In particular, I'm not seeing good plays on the football.

That's been a little disappointing these first two weeks because the unit looked much improved the first couple weeks of training camp. Hands were on footballs early in camp and everyone on offense could see it.

The Lions brass obviously has some big concerns too with the report Friday from ESPN that veteran Pro Bowl cornerback Rashean Mathis, 33, will be visiting the team this weekend.

What do you attribute the secondary woes to? There seems to be some confusion, coaching an issue? From Greg Courter (@Grinner6)

20man: I can't speak a whole lot to the coaching because I'm not in the meeting room or the film room.

This is Marcus Robertson's first year as the Lions' secondary coach, after Tim Walton left to be the Rams' defensive coordinator this offseason, but Robertson had a similar role in Tennessee for a number of years, so this isn't his first rodeo.

This is just my observation from the outside looking in, but I don't see a lot of great ball skills from a lot of players back there.

They seem to be in position to make plays a lot of times, but either don't look back for the football or can't get their hands on the football at the same time the receiver does.

Robertson works on those kinds of drills a lot in practice, but it hasn't been translating to the first two preseason games.

Maybe a couple more veteran savvy players back there could make a difference.

Will we ever see Chris Greenwood on the field in a Lions uniform? From Aaron Meckes (@aaronmeckes)

20man: He better start pretty quick. What is the saying ... you can't make the team from the tub?

Greenwood is in year two with the Lions and has a grand total of approximately four training camp practices under his belt and no preseason games.

At some point, the promise of his physical gifts has to translate into production on the field.

The good news is that Greenwood was back at practice Tuesday participating in individual drills. Usually, there's a progression with a player coming off injury. I'd suspect Greenwood would take part in one-on-one drills with receivers sometime this week and maybe even some seven-on-seven drills.

Not sure if Thursday's game vs. New England will be in the cards for him, but if he doesn't suffer a setback, he could get a whole lot of work in Buffalo.

After two preseason games, what rookies and veterans do you think are on the roster bubble at this point? From Jack LaBelle (@Ja_LaBelle)

20man: I'll go with one each.

-- As far as the rookies, I haven't seen a whole lot from six-round draft pick Corey Fuller. He was a developmental receiver coming out of Virginia Tech, but isn't getting many reps and hasn't recorded a catch and has and only one target in two games.

-- When it comes to the veterans, I haven't been overly impressed with second-year quarterback Kellen Moore. He was 3-of-5 passing for 13 yards in Cleveland and missed a couple throws he'd be the first to admit he should have made.

Last week, he was 8-of-13 passing for 60 yards.

Joique BellRB Joique Bell (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

He really hasn't done anything to wow me in that third quarterback spot so far.

Bell or Mikel winning the #2 back spot thus far? From Dan Smallwood (@1legdan)

20man: Leshoure had five carries for 24 yards last week vs. Jets. Bell had three carries for nine yards.

Friday night, Bell was the second back in the game and had four carries (17 yards) to Leshoure's one (no gain).

I think the difference between the two is what Bell brings to the passing game. I view him as a better pass catcher than Leshoure and that has shown in the preseason. Bell as five catches and six targets. Leshoure doesn't have a catch yet.

I still think coaches are still determining those roles and the last two games will play a factor. Leshoure has the edge because of his draft status, but Bell has been the more productive back, in my opinion.

Has Broyles lack of targets been due to him not getting into open space like we saw last year, or Stafford targeting others? From Andrew (@calbin81)

20man: I wouldn't read too much into that this early in the preseason. Let's not forget Broyles is only eight months removed from an ACL and isn't quite 100 percent yet.

His effectiveness will be noticed more when scheme begins to play a factor in the offense and defenses shift their coverage to stop Johnson and Reggie Bush.

Is 8 or more wins needed for the staff to remain here for next season? From Mike Bainbridge (@MikeBainbridge2)

20man: I don't think there has been any kind of win-total mandate placed on this staff because there are so many factors that can play into that, including injuries.

I'll go back to the word both Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew used when describing this upcoming season this offseason – urgency.

I think this coaching staff feels a sense of urgency and I think the Lions have to be playing meaningful games in December.

How is Pettigrew so safe on the roster with some many drops? From Solomon Williams (@KingSol620)

20man: Pettigrew does have issues with drops, but it's the other things he's brings to the table that allow coaches to sometimes look past it. Maybe look past it isn't a good phrase to use, but rather tolerate it to an extent.

The fifth-year tight end is a big target over the middle of the field (6-5, 265) and has very strong hands when making catches in traffic. I actually think he's a better pass catcher in a crowd, which may be a concentration thing.

He's also an above-average blocker for the position.

Pettigrew has averaged 71 catches and 688 yards over the last three seasons. That's why you can somewhat look past the drops. It is an issue at times and it could prevent him from ever becoming a truly elite player at the position if it continues.

Overall do you think (Friday) night's was good for #Lions to show what the offense needs to work on? From James Randall (@JamesARandall)

20man: No. Ideally, after an entire offseason together and the three weeks of training camp, you'd want Matthew Stafford and Co. on the sideline wearing baseball caps after putting up points on their first few drives.

Even Bush said after the game that the way the starters on offense have come out and played these first two games in a little concerning.

That's not what you want to hear with the regular season just three weeks away.

I'll hold off any real judgment until Megatron is back and Bush is getting the opportunities in the passing game like he did last night. That's when we'll see what tis offense can do.

Coaches will certainly have some teaching points from Thursday's game.