Every week during the regular season Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."
20man: The Lions have certainly put themselves behind the eight ball starting 1-3, but the season is far from over.
That being said, this is a critical three-game home stand coming up.
Since 1990, 117 teams (38 percent of the 312 playoff clubs over that stretch) have advanced to the postseason after starting the season 2-2 or worse. Of those, 26 came back from 1-3 starts. Houston and Kansas City made the playoffs last year after starting 1-3.
The Lions simply have to start winning, and that begins Sunday vs. Philadelphia (3-0) at Ford Field.
20man: From a statistical standpoint, it was a much slower start a season ago, even though it might not feel that way.
The Lions have been efficient at times and for stretches this season, but they've had too many long lulls, especially the last two weeks.
Detroit's offense is averaging 23.8 points per game after the quarter point of this season. After four games a season ago, they were averaging just 16.5 points per game.
They're also a better rushing team early on this year than they were in 2015. They were averaging just 2.7 yards per attempt at this point last season. That number is 4.2 so far this season.
However, I'd be remiss not to point out that three of Detroit's first four games last season were against Minnesota, Denver and Seattle, three top-tier defenses in the NFL.
Struggling against the likes of Tennessee and Chicago this year is a little different and a bit more alarming.
I still believe Jim Bob Cooter's scheme fits the Lions' personnel better than Lombardi's did. It's up to Matthew Stafford and Co. to get more out of the run game and cut the penalties, drops and inaccurate throws.
Scheme doesn't seem to be the problem this year. It's execution.
20man: That's coaching. It's technique and fundamentals.
The Lions lead the NFL in holding penalties with 10. Look, holding is going to happen, but 10 is way too many in just four games. It tells me they're getting beat way too often and having to resort to holds.
Some of the pass interference calls have been very iffy. I'm not going to blame them for those.
The pre-snap penalties are the frustrating ones for coaches. A false start on 3rd and 1, which the Lions did in Green Bay territory two weeks ago, those are killers.
Either players have to get better with their techniques and fundamentals, or personnel changes need to be made. The same mistakes are popping up week after week and it's led to the Lions being third in the NFL with 39 total penalties.
20man: Wentz and the Eagles' offense have played great to start the season. Philadelphia is the only team in NFL history to score 29-plus points with no turnovers in each of their first three games to start a season.
Though he's looked mature beyond his years, let's not forget Wentz is a rookie and he hasn't seen everything just yet.
The key this week for Teryl Austin's defense is to make Wentz uncomfortable. By that I mean they have to be much better collapsing the pocket and getting pressure on him. Lions defensive end Kerry Hyder has done a good job pressuring quarterbacks (five sacks and eight hurries), but the rest of the team has combined for just four sacks, and one of those came from Darius Slay on a cornerback blitz. They have to be better in that department this week.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the Eagles have allowed just four sacks so far this season.
The other part of the equation for the defense is to do a good job of disguising coverages and throw something new at Wentz he hasn't seen. He's played just three games in the NFL. Try and confuse him a little bit pre-snap.
Detroit has a chance to get a much needed victory to get to 2-3 if they pressure Wentz and confuse him into making mistakes, which is something they haven't been able to do in any of their four previous games. The Lions have forced just one turnover so far this season, and all four quarterbacks the Lions have faced – Andrew Luck (119.5), Marcus Mariota (102.8), Aaron Rodgers (129.3) and Brian Hoyer (120.1) – have had a passer rating above 100.0.
20man: Injuries are certainly a factor, but they can't be an excuse.
Every team has injuries. Houston was without J.J. Watt last week and found a way to limit Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota to a 54.1 passer rating.
Every team deals with injuries. Good teams find a way to overcome them. Heck, the Patriots are 3-1 and they've been down to their third-string quarterback.
Not being able to consistently rush the passer, or consistently stop the run, can't simply be blamed away on the absence of Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy. Neither can the communication breakdowns we've seen. The players that are in there have to be on the same page and that simply hasn't been the case so far, for whatever reason.
20man: Washington was limping around pretty good in the locker room after the game, and he didn't take part in Wednesday's practice. It's something we'll have to monitor as the week goes on.
If he can't go Sunday, I would expect Zenner to step into the No. 2 role behind Theo Riddick and see a significant uptick in carries. The team could promote Mike James from the practice squad to be their No. 3.
Zenner had a couple nice runs last week (4.0 average) and caught a 22-yard pass.
"I think that one of the things we realized is that every time he touches it, he typically makes something positive happen," head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday, when asked about Zenner.
"Zach has always been good and steady for us, played some for us last year early on until he got hurt. He's a very, very versatile guy. He can catch it and run with it, he's got good vision. He's very good just in terms of our special teams, as well. Hopefully we'll give him the ball a few more times."
20man: That remains to be seen, Ryan.
The Lions don't typically release injury information other than the official report. It's just a policy they adhere to.
The fact that both Ansah and Levy weren't on the field Wednesday to begin practice this week isn't a good sign.
20man: Here's my top three for both:
- WR Marvin Jones Jr.
- DE Kerry Hyder
- S Glover Quin
Disappointing so far:
- WR Golden Tate
- G Laken Tomlinson
- LB DeAndre Levy (because of the quad injury)
The good news for the latter three is that the season is only a quarter way through, and there's still plenty of time to come on strong and make a bigger impact.
20man: Being a head coach and coordinator are two very different jobs in the NFL, David.
A coordinator is afforded a single focus, and deals with just his players, which is half the team.
The head coach is in charge of the whole show – offense, defense and special teams. He manages the schedule and has to delegate responsibilities. He deals with all the Type-A personalities on a football team. He has to be a real leader. He's the one in front of the team in the meeting room. It's his message that has to resinate with the team. He's also typically the spokesman for the team. He's in front of the media every day. The coordinators talk once a week.
Jim Schwartz has proven he's a terrific defensive coordinator. The Eagles rank third in the NFL in total defense (274.3 ypg) and first in scoring defense (9.0 ppg), after ranking 30th in total defense last year.
As a head coach, he just wasn't as effective as he's been as a coordinator.
20man: Honestly, I thought they'd be 3-1 with wins over Tennessee and Chicago, and their season would then go one of two ways depending on this upcoming three-game home stretch.
At 1-3, this stretch against Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington at home is critical with consecutive road games at Houston and Minnesota looming afterward.