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: Kerryon Johnson is still the guy, but the Lions have been consistent in both talk and action that they don’t plan to run him ragged. Kerryon had 16 carries in Week 1 and 12 last week vs. the Chargers. It obviously depends on the flow of the game, but I’d expect Kerryon to continue to be around the 15-20 carry range.
I do expect to see more from Ty Johnson this week, as he looks to have taken over the No. 2 role with the release of C.J. Anderson. Ty did well with his five carries last week (30 yards for 6.0 average), and I’d guess he sees an uptick in production to somewhere around 10 carries per game, but again, that depends on the flow of the game and who has the hot hand. J.D. McKissic will also likely play a role on third down.
20man: I thought defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni described Tavai’s play these first couple weeks the best when he said the moment hasn’t been too big for Tavai.
When Davis returns, the Lions will have a ton of options with their linebackers, which is good. Tavai can line up all over the formation, which we’ve seen the first two weeks. The Lions will get creative and find good matchups for him.
They can also move Davis around and let him do some different things, maybe even rush the passer more. Davis was one of only two players in the league last year (Darius Leonard) to record at least 100 tackles and 6.0 sacks. He has a knack for rushing the passer, and the Lions can utilize that more with the confidence they have in Tavai to play the MIKE.
It’s really a good problem to have. Tavai, Christian Jones, Devon Kennard and Jalen Reeves-Maybin have all played pretty well to start the year. Add Davis to the mix, and the Lions have great depth at LB, and the ability to get creative with how they deploy those guys.
20man: The biggest improvement for me is the passing game. The dink and dunk is gone. Quarterback Matthew Stafford leads the NFL with 17 passes of 20-plus yards. That’s two more than Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes through the first two weeks of the season. Stafford’s hit on almost half of those, and is averaging a career-best 8.4 yards per attempt.
The biggest deterioration has to be special teams. Five penalties accepted – multiple more declined – carelessness with the football, nearly nothing from the return game, missed kicks, bad snaps and a blocked punt. It’s been a brutal two weeks for special teams. The Lions have to figure things out in that part of the game.
20man: Yards and total defense are important statistics, but two I value more when evaluating defensive play are points allowed and red zone percentage. The Lions are tied for 26th in yards allowed (405.5), but 11th in points allowed (18.5). Detroit is fourth in the NFL allowing just a 28.5 touchdown percentage in the red zone. Opponents are 2-of-7 in the red zone.
Teams can march up and down the field, but if they have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, that’s typically a losing formula.
20man: I think that’s a little bit overblown. Stafford knows Schwartz’ defensive tendencies and his wide nine scheme, too.
The two have played against one another twice since Schwartz left, and the two are 1-1 against each other.
20man: Nelson Agholor is the most productive of that group, but he plays mostly in the slot. That’s more Justin Coleman’s domain. I don’t know if the Lions will travel Slay this week.
It’s definitely a big loss for Philadelphia’s offense if they don’t have the services of either DeSean Jackson (abdomen) or Alshon Jeffery (calf), their two best receivers.
20man: That’s been a little disappointing through the first couple games, no doubt. Detroit’s gotten 17 tackles and one sack from the defensive line, which was supposed to be the real strength of this defense coming into the season. Detroit is 20th against the run (124.5) and opponents are averaging 5.2 yards per rush.
I think there’s a correlation there to Harrison and Flowers missing most of training camp, and I’d include Mike Daniels in that group too. Flowers has three tackles and no sacks, Harrison has three tackles and no sacks, and Daniels has just one tackle and no sacks. It's been a slow start for all three. A’Shawn Robinson has been the most productive of the bunch with seven tackles and a sack. He was a full participant in camp.
I’m not too worried just yet, however, about Flowers, Harrison and Daniels. They are veteran players. As they get more reps under their belts, I’d expect their play and production to pick up.
20man: Zach Ertz is really good. I expect him to have a big role Sunday with all the injuries the Eagles are dealing with at receiver.
I asked safety Quandre Diggs about Ertz on Wednesday, and Diggs raved about Ertz’s game and how tough a task Detroit’s defense has trying to contain him this week. I don’t think the Lions put one defender on him. We’ll probably see Diggs, Tracy Walker and maybe even a linebacker on him on occasion. Walker would be an interesting matchup for me with his frame and range.
It’s really going to take a team effort to stop Ertz, who I put right up there with Travis Kelce as the best pass-catching tight ends in the league.
20man: I don’t expect anyone to slide inside. When Decker is healthy, I expect him to be the left tackle. Crosby goes back to his swing tackle role.
I think if anything, Crosby’s performance last week, especially as a pass protector, was encouraging to see after the rough preseason he had. Maybe that means the team doesn’t have to rush Decker back until he’s really healthy and ready to go.
20man: I think 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) is a big component of this offense moving forward with what T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James and Logan Thomas have shown they can do, both from a blocking and pass-catching perspective.
I do think we continue to see a lot of the tight ends in both roles moving forward.