10 Questions with Twentyman: Who will start on defense?

Posted Jun 16, 2013

Lions' lead writer Tim Twentyman took to Twitter to answer 10 questions, including thoughts on Glover Quin, linebacker competition and the biggest surprise of OTAs

Each and every week 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.

Here are 10 for this week:

Q. Thoughts on Glover Quin so far? Todd Hix (@Hix_7)

20man: When it's all said and done, Quin's signing might be the most important of all the free agent signings for the Lions this offseason.

Quin provides them a reliable cover safety. Now defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham can use the full spectrum of his playbook without having to worry about personnel groupings.

Glover QuinS Glover Quin

Quin can cover. He can tackle. He has good size. He's the complete package, plus he's played in every game over the last four years.

He's the kind of player a defensive coordinator likes. He can make up for a bad call by the coordinator with his ability to understand route concepts and cover down the field. Paired with Delmas, they should make a good duo back there.

Running back Reggie Bush is going to make a big impact, too, but the biggest weakness on this team the last few seasons has been the secondary and Quin's signing goes a long way to boosting that unit.

Q. Travis Lewis, Tahir Whitehead or Ashlee Palmer. What is your prediction for the starting spot? Chad Heeter (@Heeter24)

20man: They all bring a little something different to the table, but when it's all said and done, Palmer's experience gives him the edge.

He's been in the NFL going on five seasons now, but people might not realize that it'll be his fourth in Detroit.

He's played the MIKE and on the outside. He knows the scheme and has game experience. I think he realizes it's his time, too.

This is what he told me in May:

"I feel like I have a good grasp on the scheme here," Palmer said. "That's just how it goes. Tully has eight years in the same system. Levy has five years in the system. That kind of chemistry can build a lot.

"When I first got here, I came into a new scheme and was thrown into the fire right away. I didn't know what I was doing. Four years later, understanding the playbook, getting the repetitious reps, I feel like I have a good grasp of how they want things done here."

Q. Tim, why are the lions the least blitzed in the league? Will a new line change that? Jamie (@Jamie092773)

20man: It won't be so much the line that determines how much the Lions are blitzed. It will be the strategy teams deploy to stop Calvin Johnson and the passing game and the ability of the offense to put drives together.

Opponents had the strategy last season to keep both safeties back in a two-high shell to take the big play away. They played back and made the Lions take the underneath routes and drive the football to score.

Teams stuck with the strategy when the Lions struggled at times to drive the football and were unable to make defenses pay for that strategy with big gains in the run game (four runs of 20-plus yards last season).

Big plays can happen when offenses catch defenses in the blitz.

The Lions had a 66.82 passer rating with one touchdown and four interceptions on 160 passing attempts vs. the blitz last season, according to Stats, LLC.

That was the fifth-worst passer rating in the league.

It'll be interesting to see how teams play the Lions early in the season with Bush as a weapon out of the backfield. Teams might have to play them more straight up this season and that could lead to more blitzes.

Q. With the addition of Reggie Bush, Theo Riddick and Montel Owens, who do u see an odd man out from last years RB'S? Bobby Olsen (@Bobbyolsen87)

20man: I think Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell are both back in 2013 and Bush, Owens and either Riddick or Steven Miller will join them.

Owens was brought into the fold for his prowess as a special teams cover ace. He's a great replacement for Kassim Osgood (signed with 49ers). The Lions don't lose anything in terms of cover skills, and they gain a player who can contribute more on offense than Osgood did.

In four starts at running back last year for Jacksonville, Owens was more than serviceable, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He's a valuable asset to the roster.

I think the Lions will also want to keep another speed back on the roster. What happens if Bush goes down?

Riddick was drafted in the sixth round and he's shown good speed and skill through the offseason.

Steven Miller has tremendous speed that's really been noticeable in OTAs and mini-camp. He could win himself a roster spot if he shows good on returns on special teams.

Q. How have our new defensive ends looked? We have a lot of athleticism on the edge. Is that an obvious change from last year? Cody Voss @CVoss616)

20man: The first thing you notice right away is their length.

Jason Jones is 6-5, Ziggy Ansah is 6-5, Willie Young is 6-4 and Devin Taylor is 6-7. I've noticed a lot more batted footballs this offseason. Quarterback Matthew Stafford called the Lions' defensive ends "trees".

The interesting thing about that, though, is that they haven't sacrificed much speed. They are less polished but more athletic.

I think we'll see flash plays, but it's yet to be determined how much consistent pressure they can provide until the pads come on and we see how much Ansah has picked up and how much better Young is.

A lot of question marks with that group, but I see more production in 2013 from the group than we saw in 2012.

Q. Am I being optimistic with not being concerned about Delmas? He was extended and a replacement wasn't drafted. Kysan Simms (@Coolbreeze_VA)

20man: I'll say this about Louis Delmas: he's one of the toughest players on this team.

He's not a big guy and yet he plays the game with reckless abandon for his body's well being. That certainly takes a toll on him, but he said he'll never change the way he plays the game.

The knee injury that kept Delmas out of eight games last year is still a problem and it might be something he needs to manage longterm.

The Lions are going to give him scheduled days off in training camp and expect the same thing during the regular season.

If managed properly, I think Delmas can play more this season. He certainly has incentive to do so with a six-figure-plus bonus for every game he plays in this season built into his contract.

We asked Lions head coach Jim Schwartz about his confidence level in Delmas playing in 2013 and this is what he said:

“I mean, there's no player I have more confidence in than Lou,” he said. “I've said so many times, he's the heart and soul of our defense and he's got an incredible amount of toughness. It took a lot of discipline from his standpoint, from him and from us, to sit this whole offseason out. Number one thing for him is to get his knee right.

“We're prepared either way. We're prepared for Lou to be our leader on defense and to be out there for 16 games, but we're certainly prepared for him not to be out there. We'll see where he is and try to make a good plan from there.”

Q. Predictions for starters on defense? JJ Bowsher (@vegasboundjj)

20man: There's a lot of competition that needs to be settled in training camp and the preseason, but if I had to guess right now, I'd say Jason Jones, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley start up front.

Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer (this was the hard one) start at linebacker.

Chris Houston, Darius Slay (also hard), Louis Delmas and Glover Quin in the secondary.

As always, feel free to disagree.

Bill Bentley could give Slay a run for his money and don't sleep on Travis Lewis at linebacker.

Q. Were the 2012 results more of a talent, attitude, or injury issue? Mtkregs (@mtkregs)

20man: I've said this before. I didn't think the 2011 team was a 10-6 squad. They won two games they probably shouldn't have won and didn't beat any of the NFC's playoff teams. They were more of an 8-8 team.

Similarly, last year's team wasn't a 4-12 team. They lost 10 close games. A lot of different areas let them down last year (defense, offense, special teams and coaching), but injuries were a biggest culprit, in my opinion.

Not having Jahvid Best was a huge loss for the offense. We saw it in the way teams defended the Lions last year and why Reggie Bush was one of their big free agent targets.

The musical chairs game in the secondary was a disaster. Injuries to Chris Houston (early), Bill Bentley and Louis Delmas were huge. The Lions started way too many different combinations in the secondary and never got any continuity back there.

Injuries to Corey Williams and Nick Fairley didn't help, either.

If the Lions stay healthy in 2013, this is the best talent they've assembled in the Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz era.

Q. Are the #Lions comfortable with their RT situation, or will they keep looking to add competition as training camp approaches? Garrett Elliott (@BigRed6810)

20man: I think they might look for a veteran tackle, but not much is out there and if they don't find one to compete with Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard, they feel confident in both of those players' ability.

We have to remember that both of those players have been on this team and in this system for awhile now (Hilliard is entering his with season with Detroit and Fox his fourth).

They haven't had an opportunity to play because of the guys in front of them, but head coach Jim Schwartz has said a number of times that he would have had no reservations putting them in last year if he needed to.

Jason Fox is up to 318 pounds and just looks like a mammoth of a man. If that right knee stays healthy I think he'll be hard to beat out for the job. I think he's ready to step in and contribute.

Q. Who's been the biggest surprise so far in OTA's? Dennis Falam (@lionsden2k13)

20man: Ryan Broyles, by far.

The second-year receiver participated fully in mini-camp, despite the fact that he's less than six months removed from ACL surgery.

He wasn't just out there running around, either. He was making plays across the middle of the field and really looked good.

He's still not 100 percent, but expect a big year from No. 84. With Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Brandon Pettigrew getting a lot of attention, Broyles is poised for a breakout season.