LIONS INSIDER

10 Questions with Twentyman

Posted May 20, 2012

Is Stafford a top 5 quarterback? Top 10?

Every week I try and do a live chat on Detroitlions.com but I can never get to all the questions because of the time constraints and the fact that I'm not the world's fasted 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.

Q. What is your take on the discussion of where Stafford ranks amongst his peers? Top 10? Top 20? From J.D.

A. I certainly think we’re talking top 10 here. When I saw this question my immediate reaction was top 5, but that might be pushing it a little bit.

His 2011 season was so spectacular, I shouldn’t get laughed out of the building for even suggesting top 5. He was second in completions (421), third in yards (5,038), third in touchdowns (41), fifth in passer rating (97.2), fifth in completions percentage (63.5) and first in attempts (663).

But that was one year.

I think Stafford is a top 10 quarterback right now and if he can put another one or two seasons together like 2011, then we can start to talk about him being in the same category as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.

Q. Surprised there is not more comment about safety. Louis Delmas misses a lot of time due to injury. Erik Coleman too is an injury risk. Amari Spievey has yet to settle in and John Wendling has shown he is only a special teams player. The Lions need both quality and depth at safety much more than at CB or OL. Why not more concern and what do you think they can do? From Phil A.

A. There might not be as much concern from the fans but the Lions are certainly worried about the talent and depth at safety. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have brought in veterans O.J. Atogwe, Chris Crocker and Sean Jones for visits this offseason.

The Lions are happy to have Coleman back from injury and were really unlucky that they had to place him on injured reserve so early in the season last year when he suffered the injury at Dallas Week 4. Toward the end of the season, it looked like he could have returned from that ankle injury and contributed later in the year.

It was also bad luck for the Lions that this year’s draft class of safeties was one of the worst in years. There was good talent at the top with Alabama’s Mark Baron, but not much depth after that.

I suspect the Lions are hoping one of these veterans brought in for a workout will agree to a veteran minimum contract – because the Lions don’t have much to spend under the cap – or possibly work out a trade. I don’t think they’re done adding to that position yet.

Q. Where do Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure stand? Do you think they will be Detroit’s top running backs this year? From Monty

A. I talked to Mikel about a month or so ago and he said he’s right on schedule with his recovery and expects to be 100 percent for Week 1. Don’t read too much into it if he’s not a full participant in OTAs or the mini-camp. Leshoure told me that he’s going to try and do as much as he can in OTAs, but the real goal is to be ready for training camp and the beginning of the regular season and he won’t push it.

Best has been working out since December and has been a full participant in the Lions’ offseason training program. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said Best will be cleared for physical contact in June and should be ready to go for camp.

The Lions are banking that Leshoure and Best are a terrific combo this year that helps spark their run game. I tend to think the pair will make a great duo. I think Leshoure is a special player.

Q. How do you view the offensive line as a whole? How would you compare it to the rest of the league? From Paul

A. I view them as a middle-of-the-pack unit. Everyone talks about how bad the run game was last year, but the Lions averaged 4.3 yards per rush, which was 13th in the league, with the 31st fewest attempts (356).

The unit gave up 36 sacks in pass protection, which ranked exactly in the middle of the pack of 32 teams.

When I look at the offensive line I see a collection of good players, but no one player who is great. It’s a cohesive unit that’s played a lot of games together and the whole is better than any one player.

We’ll see what Rob Sims gaining 20 pounds of muscle this offseason does for his game and how much of an impact first-round pick Riley Reiff will have.

Q. Which, if any, of the undrafted free agents the Lions have on the roster do you think could actually win a starting spot on the roster this coming season? From Dave

A. I don’t think there’s any undrafted free agent who will start Week 1. Aaron Berry was a rare example a couple years ago of an undrafted player who started as the nickel cornerback as a rookie.

I think there’s a chance a couple players make the 53-man roster, though, but not as a starter. I think the two most likely candidates are receiver Patrick Edwards and quarterback Kellen Moore.

In my opinion, Edwards stood out during the rookie mini-camp and I’m excited to see what he can do in next week’s OTAs against the veterans.

The Lions don’t have a third quarterback on the roster, so Moore has a shot just for that simple fact. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew might have some tough roster decisions during final cuts this year and they could decide to keep just two quarterbacks to reserve a spot for someone else more deserving.

Q. With Chris Houston here for another year and not knowing if they give him another contract, is it safe to say the Lions are hoping Chris Greenwood and Bill Bentley are the future of the secondary. Could the rooks possibly push Chris Houston for a starting spot? From Bigd

A. I don’t think a team drafts a player without thinking he’s the future at the position. Especially when you’re talking about a third-round pick like Bentley.

I’d have to throw Aaron Berry in there, too. Berry is just a third-year player and the Lions are pretty high on him. I think in an ideal world they’d want Berry, Bentley and Greenwood to be their top three cornerbacks of the future. Let’s not forget about sixth-round pick Jonte Green, either.

How realistic that can be is a whole other issue. I think cornerback is such a difficult position to play in the NFL and that’s why the failure rate with young players is higher than any other position.

If Bentley and Greenwood pan out to be starters, people will look back on this draft as one of Mayhew’s best.

I’ll wait to make any judgments until I see all three of these rookie corners go up against Calvin Johnson in practice. That was the most impressive part of Berry’s game as a rookie; he wasn’t afraid to matchup with Johnson and made a few plays.

We’ll see.

Q. Name one rookie you can't wait to see play. Mine is Greenwood. From Slippy

A. That’s a tough one but I’d say Ronnell Lewis.

It’s so hard to gauge a pass rusher’s talents without seeing him in full pads going against an NFL-caliber tackle. I want to see how Lewis’ physical strength translates to the field. He’s a very physical player with a high motor. I can’t wait to see him line up wide against Jeff Backus or Riley Reiff and see what he can do.

I have to be honest, the special teams portion of practice doesn’t always get my full attention, but it will the first time Lewis runs downfield in live drills.

Q. If Ryan Broyles is as good as we hope, do you think we keep Burleson with his high salary? From wblionsfan

A. I absolutely think Burleson plays for the Lions in 2012. Burleson was a team player this offseason when he agreed to restructure his contract to help free up some money to keep linebacker Stephen Tulloch and re-sign Calvin Johnson and Jeff Backus, among others.

Let’s not forget that Burleson caught 73 passes last year. He’s a productive player. I view the Lions’ current receiving corps with Calvin Johnson, Titus Young, Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles as a very potent unit.

I think they allow Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan a lot of flexibility to run some four receiver sets with Jahvid Best in the backfield. Imagine that set for an opposing defense. To me, it’s very similar to what the Packers and Saints can throw out there in terms of talented receivers.

Not to mention Burleson is one of the most likeable players in the locker room and a terrific veteran leader. The Lions would miss his presence on and off the field way too much. The media would miss him, too.

Q. Ronnie Brown Still out as free agent. Why have the Lions not signed him when we tried to trade for him last year? Tom from Toronto

A. I think that tells you a lot about what they think of Leshoure and Best being healthy for next season and where they were as a team when they had to make that trade last year.

The trade came right on the heels of Jahvid Best’s second concussion, which eventually ended his season. The Lions had gone all in on Leshoure and Best and losing both to season-ending injuries put them behind the eight ball. I think that trade was born more out of desperation than really coveting Ronnie Brown’s talents.

Brown has rushed for 1,000 yards just once in his seven-year career. He’s averaged 3.2 and 3.7 yards per carry the last two years and is 30 years old. I personally prefer Kevin Smith, 25, to Brown.

Q. Who would you say is the most position flexible amongst the rookies? From guest

A. I’d say Riley Reiff and Travis Lewis.

Reiff was drafted to be the left tackle of the future but Lions head coach Jim Schwartz says he can also play right tackle and guard. The Lions view Reiff as a player who can play every spot along the offensive line except center.

I wrote about Lewis Friday afternoon. He played both inside and outside linebacker at the Lions rookie mini-camp last weekend, the only player to do so.

Lewis, 24, is a smart player who’s played a lot of football and can handle both the middle and the outside if asked to do so. He can also play special teams.