10 Questions with Twentyman: Getting Delmas back and Leshoure's progress

Posted Oct 11, 2012

Lions Insider Tim Twentyman expands on 10 questions from his weekly live chat including who gets an 'A' for the first quarter.

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. What single factor, aside from #9 & #81, gives the Lions the best chance against the Eagles on Sunday? From KC22

A. I think getting #26 (Louis Delmas) back on the field is a huge boost for the defense. The Lions face one of the fastest and most explosive teams in the NFL this week in the Eagles. Delmas’ speed should make a difference for them almost immediately. Delmas can get to plays that no other safety on this team can. He can get back across the field on a reverse. He can run with some of those receivers down the field.

Delmas doesn’t generate a whole lot of turnovers in the form of interceptions (two in his career) but having him back roaming the deep part of the field could allow cornerbacks Chris Houston, Bill Bentley and Jacob Lacey to take more chances against a quarterback like the Eagles’ Michael Vick - who has thrown six interceptions in five games - knowing a player like Delmas is back there to clean it up if they miss.

Q. 1st quarter "A" grades? From Mork

A. My wife is a teacher and I see her with the dreaded red pen all the time, so this should be fun.

Looking back at the first quarter of the season, I’d probably give out five A’s.

1.LB DeAndre Levy: I think he’s really settled into his role at outside linebacker. He made a couple huge tackles against the Vikings that if he doesn’t make that game isn’t as close as it was. He leads the team in tackles (30) and is playing very well.

2. DT Sammie Hill: He’s been dealing with a back injury but is still producing. His stats don’t pop out at you, but he’s been very good at funneling plays to other guys and has been very solid up the middle.

3. RB Joique Bell: His 175 receiving yards are third most among all running backs in the NFL, behind only Ray Rice and Darren Sproles. Some people wondered if he would even make the roster out of camp (myself included), but he’s made the most of his opportunities and carved out a nice little role for himself.

4. CB Chris Houston: Houston has been steady since his return from a high ankle sprain in Week 2 and has yet to give up a big pass play on the season. In fact, teams have been steering clear of his side altogether  the last two weeks.

5. K Jason Hanson: What can you say about Hanson at age 42. He’s made 11-of-12 field goal attempts. He gets paid to put the ball through the uprights and he’s been doing that.

Q. Why did it seem like Mikel Leshoure hit it hard north and south in the Titans game but in the Vikings game seemed to dance around the backfield when he got the ball? From Justin

A. I think it’s only natural that when defenders are in the backfield early in games, and you’re not having a lot of success, as a runner you become a little bit tentative. I think there was a little of that in the Vikings game with Leshoure.

The Lions had three negative rushing plays and the Vikings were in his face quite a bit after he took the handoff. I didn’t think there were a whole lot of places to run against the Vikings. The offensive line didn’t do a good job opening holes for Leshoure and that unit would probably tell you that game wasn’t their best.

I do think you’re right and there were a couple times when Leshoure did have a hole but seemed to hesitate. He has to embrace what he is. He’s a tough runner that was brought here to get north and south and pick up tough yards. He’ll figure it out; it was only his second game in the NFL.

Q. Hypothetical here Tim: Lions come back home Week 8 with a 3-3 record. Are we back in business?

A. That’s a pretty big task to win two games on the road in Philadelphia and Chicago. Honestly, I’d be happy with a split. But if the Lions win both of their next two games and get back to .500 that sets up a home game against the Seahawks and then road games against the Jaguars and Vikings. Those are very winnable games.

The Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the league but their offense ranks 28th in points scored and 27th in yards. Hopefully, the Lions have figured out how to put the football in the end zone instead of through the uprights by then, and if they have, that’s a winnable game at home against a team that struggles to score.

The Jaguars are in rebuilding mode and I think the Lions showed that the Vikings are beatable. They cover a couple kicks and they win that game.

If the Lions win the next two, I could see them winning the next five, which would lead up to the Packers at home on Nov. 18.

Q. Bentley had the two penalties last week but both were questionable to some level. Thoughts? From ATLJeff

A. I thought the first 31-yard pass interference penalty in the first quarter was a bit questionable. The second one, a 26-yarder in the second quarter, was a good call in my opinion.

No one is questioning Bentley’s cover skills. It’s his ball skills that have come into question after the Vikings game. In this league, a cornerback has to turn around to make a play on the ball or officials will call interference every time, even if there’s not a lot of contact.

The tough thing for Bentley moving forward is now teams have seen it on tape and will be targeting him. That could be good or bad, depending on how he approaches getting better. He might have an opportunity to make a play or two in the coming weeks.

If you remember, people were down on Chris Houston’s ball skills when got here, too. It’s part of the reason he was available. But he worked on it and now no one questions that aspect of his game.

Bentley just has to work at it, and he has been over the last two weeks. We’ll see if it pays off.

Q. Can you provide a first quarter of the season comparison to last year as where the Lions are now with penalties? From JC

A. You’d be surprised to know that there isn’t a big discrepancy from last year to this year.

During the first four games last season when the Lions started 4-0, they had 29 penalties for 243 yards.

The Lions have started 1-3 this season and have 26 penalties through four games for 257 yards.

Not a big change.

Q. Reiff is touted as a good run blocker - any chance we see him more to try and jump start the run game?

A. I think there’s a chance of that. The Lions need to run the football against some of the defensive looks opponents have been giving them and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep arguably one of the team’s best run blockers on the sideline if that’s what they need to do.

I don’t see Reiff as a big liability as a pass blocker, but I can’t say that for certain because he’s only played nine snaps this season.

Reiff seems to have natural instincts as a run blocker and is athletic in space. I’m not a big proponent of putting a young tackle-to-be at guard, but if it means the Lions are able to run the ball with a little more consistency, why not, as long as he isn’t a liability somewhere else?

Q. Why don’t we see more of Tony Scheffler? From Tyler

A. It’s probably a combination of a couple things.

First, he’s on the field more in two tight end situations and the ratio of those situations vs. three wide receiver sets and other formations varies from week-to-week and game plan to game plan.

Second, he’s coming off a calf injury that forced him to miss the game in Tennessee Sept. 23. Wednesday was the first time Scheffler hasn’t been listed on the injury report since suffering the injury Week 2 against the 49ers.

Scheffler’s snaps have decreased each week. He played in 64 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in a Week 1 victory over the Rams. That slipped to 55 percent Week 2 against the 49ers, but that was also when he was hurt. He didn’t play Week 3 and then played just 17 snaps (22 percent) against the Vikings.

Scheffler can generate some mismatches in the middle of the field and they missed him Tennessee. Maybe last week was just working him back off injury r seeing something scheme-wise. He does need to become more of a factor again.

Q. I know it's still up in the air, but if Best is cleared to play, who could get cut?

A. If and when Best returns to practice from the Physically Unable to Perform list, the Lions have 21 days to activate him to the roster. I can only speculate here, but I think it would be tough to keep six running backs on the roster.

I think Joique Bell has carved out a nice role with the Lions and he’d be safe. After the top three backs of Mikel Leshoure, Jahvid Best and Joique Bell it’s anyone’s guess.

Q. Have the Lions in your opinion lost their swagger?  From Chris

A. I’d put it this way: maybe they’ve had a little too much swagger.

I think the Lions need to get back some of that underdog mentality and some of that scrappiness that we all saw last year. They need to get back to playing with an edge.

I’ve always liked an underdog.