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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: How are the rookies developing?

During the regular season Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions every week from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: I think this is a good question because there is a difference.

What's happening in Detroit is a retool, in my opinion. This is a new coaching regime running new schemes with mostly inherited players. Look at some of the players who are playing well on defense this year. Da'Shawn Hand, drafted specifically because his skillset and versatility fit a gap-control scheme. Damon Harrison, same thing, perfect two-gap defensive tackle. Darius Slay, he's just as good in man coverage as he is in zone.

There are a lot of new pieces and moving parts. That's tough, especially on defense, and especially with players asked to do things they aren't used to doing. I've always believed it's harder to pick up a philosophical change on defense, like going from a 4-3 to a 3-4, than it is picking up a new scheme offensively. That's why, to me, the inconsistent play on offense has been the most disappointing part of this Lions season so far.

Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said in a conference call this week he's starting to see on film Patricia's imprints on both defense and offense. Rivera also said he can tell by the tape the players are still trying to learn and grow into some of the new philosophies.

Patricia has to get a few more players that fit his schemes.

A rebuild, to me, is scrapping the quarterback and starting fresh. That's not the situation here. There's still an expectation to win sooner rather than later. That's a retool.

20man: While the defense struggled mightily last week both getting to Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the rush and defending the pass in the backend, Detroit did a pretty good job containing the run, minus the short touchdown runs from Tarik Cohen and Trubisky. Those weren't defended well.

Overall, the 54 yards allowed on the ground were the lowest of the season for Detroit's defense. Chicago ran the ball 22 times, so it was a really good effort by the front seven allowing 2.5 yards per carry. Chicago's longest run of the game was just nine yards.

While Detroit's pass defense last week left a lot to be desired, they did pick up against the run, which is a good sign, especially with Carolina and their third-ranked rushing offense coming to town Sunday.

20man: Let's not forget that free agency comes first and can change a lot of the needs in the draft. The Lions are expected to have a good amount to go free-agent shopping with, if they so choose.

However, as it stands right now, those would be my two biggest needs for this team.

20man: This is a big week for those guys up front. They have to be better. Minnesota and Chicago have arguably the two best defensive fronts in football. I'd throw the Los Angeles Rams into the mix as well. That's certainly no excuse for the way they've played the last couple weeks.

The underlying problem upfront to me is that when you look at some of the players individually, at least from an analytics standpoint, too many guys are having off years at the same time. A line can manage one or two players having a down year, but just looking at the analytics for Taylor Decker, Rick Wagner and Graham Glasgow, all three are having considerably down seasons vs. the seasons they had last year.

I think it's just the opposite. I believe that if they get better play individually, then the whole unit will be much better.

20man: Tate was Matthew Stafford's security blanket when things broke down, or when he needed a play. Tate was also the team's leading receiver on third down. That's hard to replace.

Tate was also the best receiver the Lions had in terms of separating from defenders. According the NFL's NextGen stats, he's averaging 3.0 yards of separation. It's easy to see why he was a target for Stafford, who has made limiting his turnovers a priority the last couple years. Kenny Golladay averages 2.7 yards of separation, that's 85th among all pass catchers. Marvin Jones Jr. averages 2.2 yards.

Tighter windows, having to wait a little bit longer for guys to get open, and then not having the benefit of Tate's run-after-the-catch ability have all been things Detroit's missed.

But let's not forget the Lions' offense had some issues at times this year with Tate in the lineup too. It's just been magnified the last couple weeks because of all the sacks (16) and how inconsistent that side of the ball has played.

20man: Crosby seems to be on the right path. He's been Detroit's swing tackle all season, and has gotten some time at left tackle when Taylor Decker's left the game because of injury. He has a positive grade from Pro Football Focus as both a pass and run blocker in limited snaps (15).

Walker is another rookie the Lions are trying to find ways to get on the field. We saw that last week in Chicago. He was in on a couple defensive packages and played 11 snaps. He even broke up a pass. The Lions like his length. The moment doesn't seem too big for him when he gets a chance.

These rookies haven't had as many opportunities as Frank Ragnow, Kerryon Johnson or Hand, but they're on a nice progression.

20man: To quote Herm Edwards: "You play to win the game."

Until a team is mathematically out of the playoffs, they should do everything in their ability to win every game with the playoffs as the goal, no matter how many games they're back or how hopeless it may seem. That's certainly the mentality of the players.

If teams want to play some young guys and see what they have after the playoffs are out of the question, so be it. Until then, I'm with Herm.

20man: There is no injury. I went back through the last eight seasons dating back to 2011 and looked at Stafford's stats 10 weeks into the season. Where does this year compare?

Stafford is completing 66.8 percent of his passes this year for 2,385 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a 93.8 passer rating. Stafford's averages over the first 10 weeks of the season for every season dating back to 2011 are interesting. He has a completion percentage of 63.4 percent with 2,514 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 91.6.

His numbers aren't drastically worse than what we've typically seen through the first 10 weeks of each of the last eight seasons.

The fact that it's year 10 for Stafford and the expectations seemed higher coming into this year have probably played a factor in some thinking he's having such an off year. The current three-game losing streak where Stafford and the offense haven't played particularly well probably plays a part in that in as well.

This teams has some issues, and Stafford isn't at the top of the list.

It is a fact, however, that Stafford and players around him on offense have to start playing better if this team is going to turn it around.

20man: They traded for Damon Harrison just a week prior to trading Tate. That doesn't signal to me that this team is throwing in the towel.

I just think the timing of the trade deadline wasn't good, but I don't fault the trade. Tate wasn't likely to be re-signed next season, and there was an opportunity to get really good value for him in a third-round pick.

Would he have helped the offense the rest of this year? Sure. But GMs need to have a big-picture view of the roster, and trading Tate was a big-picture move that made sense.

20man: New scheme. He's also playing more strong safety than he ever has before. He's also 32 years old and turns 33 in January. Father time is undefeated.

Quin has been asked this year if he's lost a step, and he doesn't think so. He looked pretty good running down Dalvin Cook two weeks ago in the open field to save a touchdown. He's on pace to match or surpass his career-high tackles total of 85. He currently has 49.

But there have been some uncharacteristic plays by him this season. The missed tackle last week in Chicago was a play he typically makes. There was a play a couple weeks ago vs. Seattle where he was a step late getting in front of a Russell Wilson pass over the middle that went for a big first down. He's made that play a number of times in the past.

He spent time away from the team for the first time during OTAs this year to be with his family. It coincided with a new scheme being implemented. Maybe that's factored in some.

It's really hard for me to say, but the Lions could certainly use some of the impact plays on defense we've grown used to him making.

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