10 Questions with Twentyman: Rice or Johnson?

Posted Dec 8, 2012

Lions Insider Tim Twentyman answers 10 questions from fans including: who would he rather have right now - Jerry Rice or Calvin Johnson?

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. Who would you rather have right now? Jerry Rice in his prime or Calvin Johnson, who is currently in his prime?

A. Can I have both? Imagine that for a second. Calvin on one side and Rice on the other. I might be able to throw for 5,000 yards in that scenario.

If I had to choose one, though, it would have to be Rice. He was one of my favorite players growing up. In all the 49ers games I ever saw as a kid, I remember him dropping one ball. I remember it because John Madden made such a big deal of it.

Rice had 14 1,000-yard seasons and had at least 800 yards in 18 seasons. Think about that. That's ridiculous. He was a model of consistency. He had the best pair of hands I've ever seen and was one of the greatest route runner in the history of the position.

He also got to play with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Joe Montana and Steve Young, but I'd contend Rice had a hand in those guys getting to the Hall of Fame too.

He's simply the gold standard for receivers.

Johnson is chasing Rice's single-season record of 1,848 yards, and before it's all said and done he could reach Rice's record of 22,895 career yards, but right now Rice is still the greatest of all time.

Q. Should we count on Broyles to start 2013? From Cee

A. It's really tough to say at this point, Cee.

There was a batch of good news this week with Broyles. He's already undergone surgery because there was little swelling in the knee. Normally, players don't have that surgery for a couple weeks to let the swelling reduce.

The fact that Broyles has been through this rehab before and knows what to expect should be helpful, too.

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew tore a second ACL in 2009 on Thanksgiving and was ready for Week 1. It varies from person to person, but he was ready to play Week 1 this year after having ACL surgery on the other knee last December.

No reason to believe he won't be ready by Week 1 next year, either. Might be midseason until he's 100 percent, though.

Q. All talent equal, when the Lions pick in the first round, what position would you like to see them address first? From JimBob

A. There are two key things every good defenses do -- rush the passer and have guys that can cover. Everyone else can kind of be filled in, in my opinion.

That being said, it comes down to defensive end, safety and cornerback.

I'd probably take a young, talented safety first, because I think those are harder to find than good pass rushers.

Someone challenged me a few weeks back to take a look at every great defense over the last 20 years and find some common threads between them.

When I looked at it, I thought all the really good defenses had terrific safety play. They had guys who could tackle and cover and make plays all over the field.

I think this Lions defense needs another guy like that to pair with Delmas. I think Delmas becomes a much better player as a rover with a good, young safety next to him.

Q. Tim, When is Stafford going to start throwing touchdowns instead of just piling up yards? From Brown Crunch

A. While Stafford's pursuit of another 5,000-yard season is impressive; the lack of touchdown passes does take some of the luster off of it.

Through 12 games last year, Stafford had 27 touchdowns and 3,527 yards.

He's well behind the touchdown pace with 16 this year, but has 3,732 yards.

The Lions have the most drops of any team in the NFL, and Johnson has been tackled inside the 2-yard line five times, which have all hurt Stafford's touchdown numbers.

The Lions have failed to punch it in the end zone at times this year and have settled for too many field goals. Stafford's name is on that statistic, too.

Five thousand yards would still be impressive, but I'm sure Stafford would take a few more touchdowns and a few more wins instead.

Q. Does our loss of playoff chance mean more playing time for rookies, particularly Reiff? From Geoff

A. I don't see it. The goal every week should always be to win the game. The players that best give you a chance to win should be on the field.

Jeff Backus has played well the last few weeks and did a great job last game keeping Matthew Stafford clean (no sacks and four quarterback hits) against a very talented pass rushing team in the Colts.

Backus has been the scapegoat for a lot of people trying to explain away a decade's worth of losing. The fact is the Lions missed Backus when he sat out vs. Texans two weeks ago (three sacks and seven quarterback hits).

Reiff looks like he'll have a nice future, but let's not rush it, even at 4-8.

Q. How would you evaluate the Lions last draft class? From Jim

A. It's hard to really evaluate a draft class until you've given them at least three years in the league.

I guess the disappointment with this class is that none of them made a real huge impact right away. By impact I mean win a starting job because of their play on the field or make a significant difference.

Third-round pick Bill Bentley kind of did that earning a starting role at the beginning of the year but he was inconsistent. He looks to have a good future, but he injured a shoulder early on and never got over it.

First-round pick Riley Reiff has carved a nice role as an extra lineman. He, too, looks like he'll have a nice future, but he didn't unseat the establishment.

Broyles was starting to come into his own before the latest knee injury. He really understands the slot and will be a good one when the knee problems are behind him.

Ronnell Lewis hasn't developed at the pace the Lions would have hoped for and has been inactive for most of the year. He didn't have the huge impact on special teams the Lions drafted him for.

Chris Greenwood was placed on PUP and then injured reserve. Nothing you can really do about that if you're the Lions. They think he'll be good, but that will be determined in training camp.

I thought Jonte Green has played better than a sixth-round pick. The jury is still out on linebackers Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis.

This class hasn't had the immediate impact of some other recent classes. We'll see what the lasting impact will be.

Q. Do you think the team can gather itself together and return to the few moments of cohesiveness that was displayed occasionally this season? From Bob Berry

A. I think we'll learn a lot about the leadership on this team the last four weeks.

I think these last four weeks will also tell the front office and the coaches how much work they have to do this offseason. Can the Lions rally together and win some tough games against good opponents? Or do they pack it in?

If it's the latter, Lions brass has a lot of work ahead of itself to weed out the dead weight and bring in both some experienced and young talent to help this team.

Q. In your opinion, what should the team do to improve for next season?  From Snap

A. I think it's finally time the Lions spend some resources on their secondary.

They need a young, playmaking safety to pair with Louis Delmas. They need to re-sign Houston and give him a veteran buddy who's not past his prime and has a resume.

We'll see how the young corners Bentley, Green and Greenwood develop. Maybe one or two of those guys can be the answer. We'll see.

The point is the Lions have to get better in their back end. That time has come.

Q. I wonder if the Lions will now draft another WR in this year's upcoming draft. What are your thoughts? From Tom

A. I know fans don't want to hear this, but there is a need.

I can't envision a scenario where Titus Young is back with this team. Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles and Mike Thomas are all better in the slot than they are on the outside.

I think there is a need for an outside guy. We'll see what Brian Robiskie and Kris Durham bring to the table over the last month. Maybe they can fill the role. If not, the Lions need to find another outside deep threat.

Q. Can the Lions really break the losing streak in Green Bay on Sunday? From Mike

A. I think they can, based solely on the way they played the Packers, Texans and Colts the last three weeks. They've been in every game at the end. They just haven't found a way to win them for whatever reason.

I didn't pick them to win in this week's Bell Tire pick 'em contest, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did.

The Packers will be without receiver Jordy Nelson, linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive back Charles Woodson and others. The Lions should have their full compliment of players.

If Stafford gets hot, anything can happen.