10 Questions with Twentyman: Looking at the Lions' playoff chances and Riley Reiff as a pass catcher

Posted Nov 9, 2012

Lions Insider Tim Twentyman expands on 10 questions from his weekly chat including whether receiver Ryan Broyles will have a better rookie season than Titus Young and which corner a higher upside: Jonte Green or Chris Greenwood.

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. With the way the playoffs look right now, does 9-7 look like a real possibility for a playoff berth? From Joel

A. Nine wins could get the Lions in the playoffs this year, but I still worry about the Seahawks and their potential to get to 10 wins. The Lions hold the tiebreaker over the Seahawks (5-4) by virtue of their 28-24 victory over the Seahawks in Week 8.

But here is the remaining schedule for Seattle: vs. Jets (3-5), at Dolphins (4-4), at Bears (7-1), vs. Cardinals (4-5), at Bills (3-5), vs. 49ers (6-2), vs. Rams (3-5).

There are only two teams with winning records on that schedule and the 49ers game Week 16 is a home. That should worry Lions fans a bit. There’s certainly the potential to get to five wins in there.

The Lions are also trailing the Vikings in the playoff race, but that isn’t staying that way for much longer. I think the Lions get the win Sunday in Minnesota and leapfrog the Vikings in the standings. After Sunday, the Vikings schedule is a minefield: at Bears (7-1), at Packers (6-3), vs. Bears (7-1), at Rams (3-5), at Texans (7-1), vs. Packers (6-3).

The Lions have the most difficult remaining schedule in all of football. Their remaining opponents winning percentage combined is .706, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Getting to 10 wins might be tough. Getting to nine is much more doable with five of their last seven at home.

Q. Higher upside, Green or Greenwood? From Jelsh

A. That’s a really good question, Jelsh. I’ll have to say Greenwood at this point because the Lions simply don’t know what they have in him yet.

It’s pretty safe to say that Green has turned into a nice late-round pick who is only going to get better. The thing I like about Green is his physicality. He had two terrific tackles on third down in Jacksonville last week where he completely stonewalled the receiver and didn’t let him get the first down. Besides not turning his head a couple times, he hasn’t been beat in coverage, either. He’s always been right there.

Greenwood’s length intrigues me. I’m not sure how powerful he’ll be, but he’s long and fast and that’s a nice combination in a corner. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are the same kind of body types. Their length allows them to recover faster than most corners and therefore they make a lot plays on the ball. Greenwood still has a long ways to go, but there’s some real potential there.

Q. Comparing the two at the end of this year, do you think Broyles will end up with a better rookie season than Titus had? From BillyJack

A. I guess you have to define better, first. Is that simply looking at the stats? Or is it impact?

From a purely statistical standpoint, it might be hard for Broyles to reach the 607 yards Young had as a rookie. Broyles would have to average nearly 60 yards per game the rest of the way out and the 52 yards he had last week in Jacksonville is the most he’s had this season.

As far as touchdowns are concerned, I think Broyles can certainly get to the six Young had last year. He has two in his first three real game action since Nate Burleson broke his leg at Chicago. Broyles is a red zone threat and has opportunities to get into the end zone in the middle of the field.

When it comes to impact, that’s tough to say. Young had a terrific end to the season last year with six touchdowns in the team’s last nine games.

Broyles has a chance to have more of an impact, though, because of circumstance. Losing Burleson was a big blow to the Lions offense, but Broyles has stepped right in and lessened the shock because of his play in relief. Not a lot was expected of Broyles this season coming off ACL surgery and the fact he was playing behind a veteran. He’s become a terrific weapon on third down, and if he keeps playing like he is right now, he’ll have a huge impact as a rookie.

Q. Just curious, you happen to know if T Riley Reiff has ever caught a pass in practice? College? High school maybe? (Referee) Gene Steratore declared him eligible every time he stepped on the field.

A. He is eligible every time he comes into the game because he’s essentially an extra tight end or the H-back in the Lions’ scheme. Because he wears No. 71 (a non-pass catching number) the referee, by rule, has to declare him eligible. It’s basically giving the defense a heads up. I’ve never liked the rule. Let the defense figure it out.

Anyway, here is an interesting stat you might like. Reiff played tight end in high school in South Dakota and caught 27 passes for 321 yards and nine touchdowns, according to his University of Iowa profile.

That pass is coming. Mark it down.

Q. Mike Martz said he saw a burst from RB Mikel Leshoure that he didn’t think he had, the ability to run away from defenders in the second level. Is Martz overreacting because of LeShoure's three-touchdown performance? From Tyler

A. I’ve been saying since I first saw Leshoure in training camp last year that I thought he was a complete back. He’s not just a power back.  He has terrific feet and can cut on a dime and has better speed than most would think for a 230-pound man.

He ran 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash leading up to the combine, and ran 4.56 at the combine.

Leshoure isn’t Jahvid Best fast – not many are - but he can run away from people in the open field. I’ve seen it since training camp last year.

Q. Delmas reminds me way too much of Bob Sanders, any word on when he'll be back? From Tom

A. No word yet, Tom. I’d assume that he has to return to practice to test out the knee before the Lions consider playing him. Who knows when that’ll be, maybe next week. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz gave no update to Delmas’ status this week.

I agree the knee injuries have been concerning, but Sanders might be an extreme analogy.

Sanders missed a total of 78 games over an eight-year career. That’s equivalent to almost five full seasons. He missed 25 games in his first four seasons. He played in six games in 2004, 14 in 2005, four in 2006 and 15 in 2007.

In comparison, Delmas has missed 12 games over his first four seasons, less than half as many – so far. Delmas played in 15 games in 2009, 15 in 2010, 11 last year and has played three so far this year.

I know the comparisons are out there, but it’s not quite to that level yet.

Q. Based on the running game currently, do you think they will look for more speed at RB in the draft or free agency for next year? From DBrown

A. The run game is the best it’s been since head coach Jim Schwartz arrived in 2009. They’ve rushed for 10 touchdowns in the first eight games of the season for the first time since 1990 and are averaging 4.1 yards per rush.

That being said, I’d fully expect the Lions to get a speed back to compliment Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell via the draft or free agency – if it’s ultimately determined Jahvid Best can’t return.

Bell has filled a lot of the receiving void left when Best wasn’t cleared for contact (concussion), but he’s not a homerun threat as a receiver. He’s terrific in the open field and is tough to bring down and has been a great story for the Lions. He’s not going to catch a swing pass and go 80 yards like Best can, though. The Lions would certainly like that type of back to add to the fold next season. Leshoure, Bell and 4.3-40-yard dash-type player is a nice backfield and a very versatile one.

Q. It seems like we still have a lot of penalties that come at all the wrong times, what are the coaches doing to try to resolve that. From Chris

A. They’ve been a lot better in that regard recently, Chris, but it’s still an issue. Last week is a perfect example, Erik Coleman makes a terrific interception to kill a Jacksonville drive but Willie Young first jumped offside and then got an illegal hand to the face penalty. What if that game was close like the Titans game when Bill Bentley got his defensive holding penalty? What if that was the Packers' offense and not the Jaguars’ offense?

“We're still not as disciplined as we need to be in some areas,” Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham told me earlier this week. “We need to straighten that out in a hurry if we're going to make a run at this, which I think we're capable of.”

Q. You called it, Tim. The Vikings are beginning to show their true colors and with Percy Harvin out this week will we be able to load the box to stop Adrian Peterson? Is this the plan with their only receiving threat out? From Tyler

A. I wouldn’t say Percy Harvin is their only receiving threat. Jerome Simpson is a good deep-threat in his own right and the Lions know that all too well from the first time they played the Vikings. It was Simpson, remember, who led the Vikings with 50 receiving yards in that Week 4 Vikings loss and he also forced two pass interference calls on Bentley that totaled another 57 yards.

Not having Harvin is a huge loss for the Vikings. He’s the league’s leading receiver with 62 catches and is their most dynamic weapon. I say Harvin and not Adrian Peterson because Harvin can do so many things. He can catch it, he can run it, heck, he might be able to throw it a little better than what they’re getting right now. The Lions luck out a little bit if Harvin can’t play, but they can’t sleep on Simpson.

As for stopping Peterson, that’s everyone goal coming in. Still doesn’t help much. That’s why he’s the best back in the league. Expect the Lions to try with a lot of eight-man boxes, though.

Q. Stafford is 23-for-27 on third down over the last two games. Are some nagging injuries healing for him? From HittingOurStride

A. Stafford was banged up a little bit earlier in the season, but that didn’t have as much to do with it as the guys around him playing better. When the last time Pettigrew dropped a ball? Broyles has emerged as a really nice weapon on third down. Scheffler has become more involved.

But I think the biggest key has been the run game. The run game is hitting it’s stride and that’s putting the Lions in better third-down situations and has also opened up the play-action portion of the passing game.

The problems on third down and in the end zone earlier this year were execution problems, in my opinion. That hasn’t been the case the last couple weeks.

 Guys have stepped up and performed.