10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Can the defense keep forcing turnovers?

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: That's an important one, no-doubt, but I have two other key ones.

First, Jarrad Davis has to make a difference for Detroit's defense stopping Dalvin Cook and Minnesota's rushing attack. Cook is a similar back to Atlanta's Devonta Freeman, who torched the Lions last week with his speed and shiftiness. Cook is actually a little bigger, but just as fast, just as quick and just as crafty in the pass game. Cook is currently second in the NFL in rushing (288 yards) and third in total yards (370). If the Lions don't tackle better and contain Minnesota's run game, it will be a long day in Minneapolis.

The second one for me is can Lions left tackle Greg Robinson keep Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen off Matthew Stafford? Griffen took some shots at Robinson in the media this week, calling him lazy. Will that light a fire under Robinson? Griffen has four sacks in three games for the Vikings, while Robinson has been credited with allowing two sacks (per STATS, INC.) with two penalties.

20man: Seven interceptions in three games is a lot. I don't expect them to keep up that kind of pace, but I think this secondary will continue to produce turnovers. What I really like about this Lions secondary, and I know defensive coordinator Teryl Austin like it too, is the fact that they've played together for some time now. This is year five playing together for Glover Quin and Darius Slay. Three years for Quin with Quandre Diggs and Nevin Lawson. Two years for Quin with Tavon Wilson and Miles Killebrew. These guys speak the same language within a scheme they are very familiar with. Don't discount how important that is.

Quin has the second most interceptions (18) of any player in the league since 2013. He's a beast back there. He's always going to get his.

Slay has really improved that part of his game the last couple years. He already has two interceptions this year after having two in each of the last three years. The Lions are tied for the lead in the NFL with 29 pass breakups. Slay has six of the 29.

As for the tipped balls, all that means is that Detroit's secondary has been in the right place to make a play. I expect that to continue. I really like how those guys back there are playing.

20man: He actually has been pretty involved. Riddick was targeted nine times last week. He caught four for 38 yards. There were some opportunities for big plays between Matthew Stafford and Riddick they just missed. Stafford threw him too low of a ball on one third down when Riddick was in space and it looked like he could do some things had the pass been better. They also had an option route set up where Riddick had beaten a linebacker, but the ball was deflected at the line of scrimmage.

Riddick is second on the team with 13 receptions and has a touchdown in three games. He's on pace for 70 catches out of the backfield. That's pretty involved, and it could be much better had they hit on more of the 19 targets he's received.

20man: Xavier Rhodes is definitely Minnesota's best cornerback, and he's traveled with the opponent's best receiver in each of the first three weeks of the season. If I had to guess, I'd expect to see him more on Marvin Jones Jr. than anyone else.

Golden Tate has been playing a lot more out of the slot. I'd think the Vikings would want to keep Rhodes out wide because he can certainly handle that island alone. Jones is also more of a deep threat than Tate.

20man:I don't see that happening quite yet. Tavon Wilson is a pretty savvy vet, and I think Teryl Austin likes having him and Quin back at safety with the ability to use Killebrew as a Swiss Army Knife, playing lots of different roles in that very effective heavy-safety look.

20man: Potentially having their starting MIKE linebacker could certainly help. Davis has a nose for the football, and his speed will give the Lions a boost against a back with Cook's speed and elusiveness. Davis is ranked 11th among all NFL linebackers with a run-defense grade of 82.2 by Pro Football Focus.

Getting Davis back would help, but it will really take a much better tackling effort from the entire team than what we saw last week.

20man: Pretty good.

Center Travis Swanson was back at practice this week after missing the Atlanta game with an ankle injury. His return allows Graham Glasgow to shift back over to left guard. T.J. Lang was back at practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with what the Lions are calling a fibula injury. He was limited, but I'd be surprised if it kept him out of the lineup Sunday. He's a pretty tough guy.

The Lions could certainly use all hands on deck up front playing a terrific Minnesota defense front this week that employs a complicated blitz scheme that features the double A-gap blitz look.

20man: Slow down, Jeffrey, it's Week 4. Way too early to start talking about playoffs and division titles. There's too much football to be played yet.

I will say this, though. I thought last week's game showed that this team can play with anyone in the NFC. I see a team that has improved in almost every aspect. They didn't even play all that well, especially on offense, and had a chance to win against the defending NFC champions.

Can they go on the road against Minnesota and Green Bay and win? Let's wait and see that before we start talking about division titles and playoff berths.

20man: I don't think Jim Bob Cooter wants to start shuffling players around and ask them to take on roles they aren't used to, especially a rookie. Ebron wasn't good last week, and drops have been a problem his entire career.

I think the Lions are between a rock and a hard spot here because it doesn't look like Michael Roberts is ready to step in and play a major role (32 snaps in three games), and they need Darren Fells to continue playing to his strengths as an edge blocker.

Ebron was good in New York. I think if you're the Lions, you just hope you see more of those performances and less like the one we saw vs. Atlanta. At the end of the year, you evaluate the whole body of work and make a decision from there. I'd actually be a little surprised if Ebron had another clunker this week. He owned up to the game he has last week and said he'll be better. We shall see.

20man: This is a tough game, for sure.

We know how good Minnesota's defense is, but who would have thought after three weeks their offense would be ranked second in the NFL and their passing game third?

Cook is second in the NFL in rushing (288 yards). He's been so good that defenses have had to move up to stop him, and receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have taken advantage of the one-on-one matchups that's allowed on the outside. The Vikings have completed 15 pass plays of 20-plus yards, fourth most in the league. It's not the dink and dunk Vikings offense of the past.

Detroit ranks 12th in the NFL stopping the run (86.0 per game). They were good the first two weeks of the season and not so good last week. This week will let us know if last week was an anomaly or if the first two weeks were the anomaly. The Lions have to be better against Cook than they were Freeman last week.

Cook, Thielen and Diggs are all in the top 10 in the NFL in total yards. No other team in the league has more than one player in top 10. This will be a good test for the defense overall.

Offensively, the Lions can't settle for Matt Prater field goals again this week. They also have to be much better on third down. They can't go 3-for-13 on third down, like they did la week ago, and expect to win on the road in that environment.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content