10 Questions with Twentyman: Which player could be a surprise starter Week 1?

Posted Jun 27, 2013

Tim Twentyman answers 10 questions submitted by Lions' fans, including where the front office benefits most with the addition of Brian Xanders

Each and every Thursday this offseason, I'll try and answer questions on the minds of Lions fans via my Twitter account @ttwentyman.

I receive a number of great questions throughout the week and it's about time I start addressing them on a regular basis. Feel free to disagree with my answers.

Here are 10 for this week:

Q. Where would you say the Lions benefit most by adding Brian Xanders to the front office? Sledge (@MrGottaGetReady)

20man: I don't think it's ever a bad thing to have another voice and another opinion when it comes to personnel decisions.

Xanders knows football and he knows what it takes to build a winning team from previous stints in Denver and Atlanta.

The most immediate benefit the Lions have seen is the way they collect and retain data on players. They've revamped and updated their entire system under the direction of Xanders. The system will help them make more informed and quicker decisions when it comes to personnel.

Q. Is Israel Idonije's signing an indictment against Ziggy Ansah, or proof Mayhew/Schwartz are on hot seats & can't leave anything to chance? Derek Mack (@Dmacali818)

Ezekiel AnsahDE Ezekiel Ansah (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

20man: I don't think it's either one. This was simply a move that made sense for the Lions.

Anytime a team can get a veteran pass rusher with a proven track record of production (who, in this case, is also coming off a 48-tackle, 7.5 sack season), that just makes sense.

The Lions are pretty inexperienced at defensive end beyond Jason Jones. Like Jones, Idonije can also play all four spots along the defensive line, so he not only fills a veteran need at defensive end, but can also be the team's fourth defensive tackle behind Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley.

Ansah is going to be good, but this takes a little bit of pressure off him and the Lions. They can let him develop alongside a veteran player who's been there and done that.

Idonije gets a change of scenery and gets to play alongside Suh and Fairley, which had to be attractive to him.

It's really a win-win for everyone involved and isn't an indictment on anyone.

Q. In your opinion, who's the one guy on the roster that not many fans are thinking of that will be a starter on day one? (John Hildebrandt (@darklineup)

20man: Good question. I had to think about this one for a moment.

This might not come to fruition, but I think linebacker Travis Lewis is very much in the mix for that open starting outside linebacker spot.

Ashlee Palmer probably has the edge and Whitehead will be in the mix, too, but Lewis has a chance to beat out both of them with a good camp.

Palmer is the veteran and Whitehead was a fifth-round pick, but Lewis, a seventh-round pick last year, has been impressive this spring.

Lewis is the all-time tackle leader at Oklahoma. That doesn't happen without being a pretty good football player. He fell to the seventh round in last year's draft because he tried to gut through a foot injury in the evaluation process.

I can't call it definitively, but Lewis is probably a player fans would be surprised to see win that starting linebacker job.

Q. The signing of Chris Hope mean that Delmas's knee is worse then expected? Leo Barwela (@big92201)

20man: I think the Lions have a pretty good idea of where Delmas' knee is. I don't think there will be a lot of surprises moving forward.

Delmas signed an incentive-laden contract this offseason, so the team has protected itself from that sense.

Hope's signing gives the Lions a veteran safety, who knows the scheme having played three years under Jim Schwartz in Tennessee. He can also make a spot start if needed.

The Lions feel pretty good about the talent level of Glover Quin, Delmas and Don Carey. Hope gives them another experienced player to throw into the mix and protect themselves in case of injuries.

I don't think this move is a result of the Lions being caught off guard. They know they have to manage this injury with Delmas and have a plan to do so.

Q. How are the Lions planning on using Joique Bell this year? Dylan Banziruk (@Dylan_Banziruk9)

20man: The exact same way he was used last year. He's a physical back with good quickness, which is why he's such a good receiver.

He caught 52 passes last year, but that number will likely decrease in 2013 with Reggie Bush taking some of those receptions away from him.

Mikel Leshoure and Bell look to be the team's between-the-tackles runners. They'll be the short-yardage and goal-line runners.

The real question is whether Bell can take some carries from Leshoure. Bell showed some explosiveness to his game last year and averaged 5.0 yards per carry.

Bell told me earlier this offseason that he wants an increased role on special teams, too. I'd expect him to be on all four special teams units and could even throw his name into the hat as a kick returner.

Q. How do you see the Lions using Patrick Edwards? His teammates say they expect him to make plays. 5th WR usually doesn't make plays. Mat Cool (@Thanksthomcool)

20man: What makes you think he's the No. 5 receiver?

From what I saw this spring, Edwards looked like the No. 4 receiver behind Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles. He even got some work with the first-team offense at times.

Edwards looked very good this spring. There's some concern about his size (5-foot-9), but he has very good hands, a knack for getting open and seems to get to full speed very quickly after catching the ball and turning up field.

I talked to Johnson and Burleson about him and both players were really impressed by him.

Burleson was on Sirius NFL Radio earlier this week and said he could see Edwards catching 35 to 40 footballs. That kind of statement from Burleson tells me that they don't just expect Edwards to make the team, but to have an impact.

Lets also not forget this is a pass-first offense that threw 740 times last year. They're certainly hoping they won't have to throw it that many times in 2013, but the point is that there will be plenty of passes to go around if Edwards continues to show well in training camp and earns a role on this team.

Q. Who is our second string LT? John Ray Miller (@Ionianative1)

20man: If Riley Reiff was to get hurt, the Lions would likely move either Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard – whomever doesn't win the right tackle spot – over to the left side.

Both Fox and Hilliard are swing tackles, meaning they can -- and have -- played both tackle spots. That's one of the reasons they were such a priority to sign this offseason.

Rookies Austin Holtz and LaAdrian Waddle took some reps at left tackle this spring and there's the posibility one of those players makes the roster, but the top three tackles are Reiff, Fox and Hilliard, and the third tackle among that group is likely to back up both spots.

Q. Where will Theo Riddick fit in? Will he play more of a Logan roll than RB? Antonio (@tdogg14)

Theo RiddickRB Theo Riddick (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

20man: He has to earn that role first. The Lions roster is at a point where I wouldn't guarantee a spot just yet for late-round draft picks.

Riddick would certainly have an edge over an undrafted player, but he'll have competition for both a return and running back role from undrafted rookie free agent Steven Miller.

This is just my thought process, but I could see the Lions keeping five running backs with Montell Owens being such a resource on special teams.

Leshoure, Bell and Bush and I'd want to keep another speed back (Riddick or Miller) in case Bush was to go down with an injury.

That's just my thought process, and the Lions could be thinking something completely different. But in my scenario, Riddick would have to win that role outright.

Q. Does Corey Fuller have a chance at playing time this year? Cody Flynn (@Codyflynn4)

20man: The Lions drafted Fuller in the sixth round knowing that he had terrific speed, but was also raw.

Fuller's been working on getting lower this spring and coming out of breaks. It's some of those little things he'll have to continue to develop.

His size and speed give the Lions a real deep threat on the outside opposite Johnson, which is why the Lions drafted him.

But like I mentioned with Riddick, being a late-round pick doesn't guarantee a roster spot or playing time on this roster.

The competition for that fifth receiver spot is going to be fierce come training camp. There's a good mix of players there, including some veterans, who'll be in the mix: Fuller, Kris Durham, Mike Thomas, Michael Spurlock, Devin Thomas, etc. ...

Q. Any chance Joseph Fauria takes over Tony Scheffler at the TE position? Antonio (@tdogg14)

20man: Training camp and the preseason games will ultimately decide that.

I think Fauria will have to perform well in training camp and really show well in the preseason for that to happen, though.

Scheffler is a veteran. He's a better route runner, and even though Scheffler isn't a great blocker, he appears to be more developed in that department than Fauria at this point.

Some people have mentioned the difference in salary between the two players, which is around $2.5 million, but I don't think that's such a huge factor. The Lions are under the salary cap and they aren't in a position to make decisions with money over talent in mind.

Fauria will have to win that spot on talent and he's going against a veteran player who has four 40-plus-catch seasons under his belt.