10 Questions with Twentyman: Depth at running back, offensive play-calling and defensive strategy

Posted Sep 25, 2012

Every week during the season I’ll be participating in a live chat on sponsored by Huntington Bank. I can never get to all the questions in the chat because of the time constraints and the fact that I'm not the world's fastest typist. The nature of online chats don't lend themselves to expansive answers, either.

So, each week, I'll pick 10 good questions that I either didn't get to or would like to expand upon. I might also throw in a few here and there from my Twitter account, @ttwentyman.  

Q. If Best returns week 7, will he get the staring role? From James

A. That probably depends on how things are going over the next two games with the run game, but I think Leshoure will still get the bulk of the workload if Best returns against the Bears on Monday Night Football.

Now, that could change from week to week after that depending on game plan. If Best comes back, I see him being more involved in the passing game and playing a similar role as Darren Sproles with the Saints.

Sproles has the highest average yards per rush (8.9) of all the Saints backs, but has just seven attempts. Best will have more carries than that, but the point is still the same: Saints use Sproles in good matchup situations.

Not surprisingly, Sproles leads the Saints with 18 receptions. That’s the role I see for Best. Heavily involved in the passing game and a complimentary runner.

Q. If we lose to the Vikings, is our season over? From James

A. Come on now, James. Over? Really? It certainly makes the bye week a little less enjoyable. It will be cause for concern, but it’s not the death penalty for their season.

Since 1990, 22 teams have made the playoffs after starting the season 1-3 or worse (1992 Chargers were 0-4).

Look no further than the coaching history of one Jim Schwartz as proof that a 1-3 start doesn’t mean the end of the world.

In 2002, when Schwartz was with the Titans, they started 1-4 on the season and still made the playoffs. They actually advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game.

Let’s not forget the Lions have five home games over their last seven games. A slow start doesn’t doom the Lions, but for the sake of the fans' sanity -- and mine -- let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.

Q. Hindsight is 20/20, but do you think the Ryan Broyles pick was the best decision at this point? From JJ

A. It’s not fair to Broyles to make that judgement three games into a rookie season where we have yet to see him play at 100 percent. When the Lions picked Broyles they said they did so with the intention of bringing him along slowly after ACL reconstruction in November.

Maybe they could have gotten a player that would help more right now, but there’s no way of telling how valuable Broyles could be in the next year or two or maybe sooner.

Let’s not forget that Broyles holds the NCAA FBS record for most receptions in a career. He’s going to be a big part of this offense moving forward. Be patient.

Q. What really happened 4th-down and 1 against the Titan? From lionsfan

A. Center Dominic Raiola got his signals crossed. It’s really as simple as that. He stood up and admitted as much on Monday and apologized for it.

"That's on me," Raiola said in the locker room Monday. "That's missed execution on my part."

The Lions were trying to draw the Titans offside and if that didn’t work they were going to call timeout and kick the game-tying field goal. I actually think Schwartz played it right. Why not give yourself a chance to win the game on a free first down? If he had called the timeout before the play, then Titans coaches would have reminded their players about a Lions attempt to get them to jump offside and it probably wouldn’t have worked. Schwartz would have had to use his second timeout.

It’s just one of those unfortunate miscues that costs a team a game sometimes.

Q. Is Cliff Avril's price tag in the offseason going down with each passing game? From Guest

A. No.

Avril is just 26 years old and is already playing in his fifth NFL season. Those numbers will be just as important to him getting a deal this offseason as his final sack total. He’s experienced, proven and entering the prime of his career.

That being said, he still has to put up respectable numbers if he wants the big pay day. I don’t think it has to be the 11 sacks he put up last year, either. If he gets eight, someone will probably pay him.

If reports are accurate, the Lions made a pretty good effort to try and sign Avril this offseason. I suspect they’ll be in the game again this offseason.

Q. What is your outlook for the lions seeing how they started. From guest

A. It’s a long season and we’re not even a quarter of the way done. I don't have the panicking type of personality. I had them 10-6 before the season started and I’m sticking with that. I had them winning the Titans game, they obviously didn’t. They now have to win a game I had them losing. They are certainly talented enough to do that if they clean a few things up.

This story is a long way from being written.

Q. Hey Tim, I thought Gunther was going to change up the way he uses Suh? Any updates or thoughts on that? From SF

A. He actually has done that more this year. Suh has played some defensive end already this year and is playing different techniques from his defensive tackle position.

Against the Rams, Suh was in five-technique (lined up on the right tackle's outside shoulder) as opposed to three-technique (outside shoulder of guard) when he recorded his first sack of the season in the third quarter of that Week 1 victory. It may seem like just a subtle movement, but that changes the way the defense has to block him and the leverage and angles Suh can get on his blockers.

Look closely against the Vikings and you’ll see him moving around a little bit.

Q. What’s your thoughts on Pettigrew's hands? From Greg

A. In my opinion, Pettigrew’s problem with drops is more a patience problem that anything else. He’s too anxious to try and get upfield and make a big play that he forgets to do the simplest thing first – catch the ball.

I been at every single OTA, minicamp and training camp practice this year and I saw Pettigrew make some spectacular catches. He has good hands. He just gets into trouble when he tries to do too much.

Look, Pettigrew and the offense are the least of the Lions worries the first three weeks of the season.

Q. Tim -- in your estimation, has Linehan been way too conservative in his play calling this year? From Patrick

A. Wasn’t everyone demanding that the Lions run the ball more last year after Stafford threw 663 passes? I’m confused.

The Lions are averaging 29.0 points per game, rank No. 2 in total offense and have the No. 1 passing attack in all of football.

Did I mention their running back just debuted with a 100-yard performance? I’m still confused.

If there has been one problem with the Lions offense it’s been on third down (13 for 36). They are settling for too many field goals. I’m sure there are some third-down calls Linehan would like back, but he’s got 13 more games to make some of those corrections.

The Lions are trying to establish a run game and force people out of some exotic coverages and that's part of the reason for the slow starts.

Not a concern.

Q. As an Illini grad I love LeShoure... but how did Kevin Smith go from a starter to getting no playing time? I still think he's the best 3rd down option (very good blocker, decent receiving threat). From Matt in Ill.

A. The problem that Smith is facing when it comes to playing time is that Leshoure is a three-down back, too. He's a good receiver and is sufficient in pass protection. I think he brings a little bit more of a big-play punch on third down, too.

I also wonder how many of those situations will be taken over by Best if he returns.

Smith knew the deal when he re-signed in March. When I talked to him this offseason he said he knew he was the third back and thought he would bring something to the team in that role.

Right now, I think Leshoure and Joique Bell bring a little different power element that the Lions are looking for.