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 do you think is wrong with our red zone offense in general? Besides turnovers, we can't score touchdowns? From Jason
A. It has been bad, Jason. In 23 chances, the Lions have scored 16 times (11 touchdowns and five field goals). To put that in perspective, the Saints have the best red zone offense, scoring on 20 of 21 drives with 15 touchdowns. The biggest problem for the Lions has been the seven non-scores in the red zone
I think the issue is three-fold:
1. The Lions are really missing a speed element out of the backfield down in the red zone without
3. Stafford needs to make the throw. He’s been the victim of a few drops in the red zone, but he’s also missed some throws. Last week in Chicago is a perfect example. Johnson saw single coverage at the goal line for the first time in who knows how long and Stafford made the right read to throw the fade route to him. Unfortunately, he under threw the ball a little and allowed Bears defensive back Charles Tillman to get a hand on the ball. Johnson will make that play 8 out of 10 times if it’s thrown where only he can get it.
Q. Tim, as a season ticket holder, should I just wait until the second half to show up on Sunday? From Scott W.
A. I know I’ve been saying this for a couple weeks now, but it’s likely to turn around for this offense sometime, right? They’re too talented.
I’d be there early this week because there’s potential to be some fireworks. Seattle has a very good defense, but they play a lot of eight-man boxes and single-high safety sets. The Lions haven’t seen a whole lot of that this season and if Lions receivers can shed the press coverage and beat those big corners in the first five yards, there’s potential for some big plays.
I’m not sure it was too wise for Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman to provoke Johnson by changing his Twitter name to “Optimus Prime” this week (get it?). Johnson said he’d use it as motivation.
You might want to be in your seat for that.
Q. Do you think we can still make the playoffs? From Larry
A. Yes, they can. Will it be easy? No. Do I think they will? I'll tell you after the next three games.
The Lions dug themselves a hole and now they’re in a tough spot. I think they have to win the next three to have good shot. Win the next three games and the Lions are 5-4 heading into a tough two-game stretch against the Packers and Texans at home.
The good thing for the Lions right now is that there are only four teams in the NFC with fewer than three losses. There is a lot of parity in the NFC and if there was ever a year a 9-7 team could get into the playoffs it might be this season. I could see some tiebreaker scenarios in play this season and that’s why it’s important to start winning division games and NFC games.
After the current three-game stretch against the Seahawks, Jaguars and Vikings – all winnable games – the Lions have the Packers, Texans, Colts, Packers, Cardinals, Falcons and Bears.
If they are 5-4 heading into that stretch, they’ll have to win at least four more games. Colts and Cardinals would be two winnable games. The Bears are another. That leaves one upset win over the Packers (2), Texans or Falcons. The good news is that three of those games are at home.
It’s certainly not out of the cards, but they’ll have to make a little run here and then take advantage of five of their last seven games at home.
Q. Do the Lions plan on activating CB
A. I talked to Greenwood yesterday. He told me that he found out rather quickly when he returned to practice last week that being mentally ready and physically ready are two very different things. Practice has been a enlightening, for sure.
Greenwood has all the tools the Lions want, but it’s going to take some time. He’s coming from a Division III school and missed all of training camp. They have another week to decide whether he’s far enough along to help them or not. I’m not sure how much he helps on defense this season, especially with
It’s a tough spot for the Lions. I’m sure they’d like him to keep practicing, but can they afford to keep a roster spot if he isn’t ready to help on defense? If it were me I’d activate him and keep him inactive until he can play. The practice time is crucial if you want him ready for next year. Who knows, maybe he surprises you.
Q. Tim, is offensive coordinator Scott Linehan the issue here, or just pure offensive execution? From Beastmaster.
A. Everyone deserves a little bit of the blame for the offense's inability to score touchdowns. I say score touchdowns, because they can move the football as the fourth-ranked offense in the league, they just can’t punch it into the end zone.
I sat and watched three turnovers in the red zone Monday. I watched a drop pass by Calvin Johnson on the first series of the game that was likely to be a touchdown – at the very least a big gain.
I also watched a well-designed play that got Titus Young behind coverage and quarterback
Stafford also underthrew a fade route to Johnson in the end zone when he saw one-on-one coverage at the goal line.
That’s not on Linehan.
Players have to make plays when they’re in a position to do so. The Lions score on two or three of those red zone drives where they turned it over and it’s a different game.
I certainly haven’t agreed with some of the play calls, especially down on the goal line. I’d like to see Leshoure in there a little more. That’s why he’s here, right?
But Monday certainly wasn’t on Linehan, in my opinion.
Q. Ok I'm sure you heard about Brandon Marshall calling
A. It is, which is why I gave it absolutely no merit and left it alone. I get that Marshall was standing up for his friend and quarterback, but this isn’t tiddlywinks and Cutler didn’t have on a red jersey.
Cutler rushed three times for 34 yards in the game and was very good eluding pressure in the pocket. Suh finally got a beat on him and grabbed his jersey and tackled through him, which is what you’re taught to do as a defender.
Suh wasn’t flagged on the play and Cutler even admitted after the game that it was a legal hit. Suh is a big powerful guy and it looks bad whenever he tackles a quarterback. Looks can be deceiving.
Q. Wasn't Speivey suffering concussion symptoms from the playoff game into training camp? Also, has Bentley separated his shoulder repeatedly this year, and is he approaching the point where they'll shut him down and opt for surgery? From RayVictory
A. I need to make it clear that I have no medical information on either player and anything I write is purely speculative on my part.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m a little worried for Spievey. It’s a little concerning that he’s had two in less than a year. We all know what happened to running back Jahvid Best after he had two in a fairly short time.
If there’s one thing we should know from concussions, though, is every case is unique and is handled independently from any other. We’ll just have to wait and see what the protocol is on Spievey.
As far as Bentley is concerned, the Lions have been through these shoulder issues before and they’ve seemed to always end in surgery at some point. Stafford had shoulder surgery, former cornerback Aaron Berry had it and so did cornerback
I’m not sure if Bentley’s situation is similar to those three, but it’s probably something he deals with through the season until it can heal with rest or get taken of with surgery. He continues to practice in limited fashion.
Q. I believe one reason Lions receivers drop to many balls is because they are catching the ball with their hands out in front of them instead of using their hands to guide the ball into their bodies to "cradle" the catch. Any thoughts? From Mick
A. I have to admit that I don’t have a very good set of hands, but I can remember always being taught growing up to catch the ball away from your body and not let it get into your shoulder pads. The Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald does a great job with that. I like watching him catch the football.
I think the problem some of the Lions have had with drops is just concentration. The media asked Calvin Johnson about his drop on the opening drive against the Bears Monday night and he said he turned his head and was trying to make a play before he caught the ball.
I’ve noticed tight end Brandon Pettigrew do that a few times, too. I think these guys are so anxious to make a play because of the way the offense has played and the fact that they’ve led only 34 minutes this year (thank Detroitlions.com columnist Mike O’Hara for that stat) that they’re forgetting to do the simple thing first – catch the ball.
Johnson has good hands, so does receiver Titus Young, who’s also dropped a couple, they just need to secure the catch and then transition it to their body before turning up field. Simple fundamentals.
Q. Why is Schwartz being so stubborn with establishing the run through the first half when the Lions are a passing team? We need to establish the pass and then we should be able to run the rest of the game. From Tony from Indy
A. Is Tony from Indy really Mike O’Hara? I have this argument with Mike all the time. I look at it this way (and Mike doesn’t agree with me): take what the defense gives you. Run the ball against a seven-man front. The only way you don’t is if you think your line can’t block it.
Why the heck did you draft
I think the Lions have played some really good run defenses this season – they’ll play another one Sunday in Seattle – but things will start to open up in the run game and that will open up a lot of other things in the pass game.
Q. Why can't the lions stop screwing up the little things? Every post game starts the same way. How many times can we try and fix the little things? From Cale
A. That is a concentration and coaching issue, in my opinion.
The Lions have been plagued by simple fundamentals the last couple weeks. Catch the football. Hold onto the football. Accurately throw the football.
Maybe the coaches need to spend more time on the fundamentals. Make it a part of practice. It doesn’t matter how good the scheme is if players don’t catch the football or give it away by not being fundamentally sound.
Maybe I put every player who has a chance to catch a football on Sunday in front of a jugs machine to start or finish practice. Start throwing them tennis balls. Hammer home ball security to the running backs. Do an entire individual portion of practice on ball security. Hammer these issues home.
When players aren't doing the little things right, it’s ultimately on them to get it fixed. But coaches should be doing all they can to help get it corrected, too.