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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: What changes are Lions making on defense?

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: It's definitely a combination of both. Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn took his share of the blame when talking to the media on Thursday.

A coach's job is to put players in the right positions to make plays. When we talk about some of the reoccurring communication issues and some of the same mistakes happening week after week, it's also the coach's job to find the right players to plug and play, even if that means making hard personnel decisions. It's taken four weeks, but all indications point to a shakeup this week.

But the players certainly don't get off the hook. Ultimately, it's their job to perform. If they are in a position to make a play, make it. We haven't seen enough of that on all three levels. It's on them to know their responsibility and limit the miscommunications and errors.

The defensive struggles through the first month of the season certainly fall under the category of everyone involved.

20man: There really isn't a lot of time spent watching practice in the regular season for the media. We are only allowed to watch the first 10-15 minutes of practice, which is stretching and individual periods. It's essentially a counting session. Who's there and who's not and trying to glean what we can from injured guys taking part and seeing how they look in individuals.

That being said, I think we can expect the defense to look quite different Sunday both from a scheme and personnel perspective. Changes had to made after the defense started the season ranked 32nd in points allowed, 32nd in total defense and 30th against both the run and pass. They've simplified the scheme and gone back to some more basic concepts, hoping that will allow the guys on that side of the ball to play a little faster.

Personnel wise, Demetrius Taylor is expected to be active and play the big end position as a rotational player. Don't be surprised if Aidan Hutchinson moves around more than we've seen, maybe rushing from a two-point stance some. And I'd expect some significant changes in the secondary. The miscommunication back there has been an issue, and I wouldn't be surprised if the coaches look at some different combinations to see if they can get a spark.

20man: That's always a fine line. This game is played in pads. So much technique work goes into it, and the only way to get better between the lines is practicing in pads. There's obviously some inherent risk in that, however.

I think it would be more of an issue if we were seeing a lot of soft tissue injuries and things like that.

D’Andre Swift, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds are all dealing with ankle injuries that happen during the course of a game – not practice. Evan Brown (ankle), Quintez Cephus (foot) and John Cominsky (wrist) are all injuries that happened during game action.

DJ Chark's injury sounds like it's related to the ankle injury he had surgery on last year. Again, not practice related.

I think there always has to be a good balance between getting good pad work in, but also trying to limit injuries. I don't think what the Lions are dealing with now is because of a harder practice workload or side effects from of a tougher training camp.

20man: After Swift missed last week's game and sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday, I'd be a little surprised if he played Sunday against the Patriots. The bye is Week 6, so if Swift sits this week while rehabbing ankle and shoulder injuries, he'd essentially have three weeks of rest and rehab leading into Detroit's Week 7 matchup with the Cowboys in Dallas. The hope is he'd be closer to his old self by then.

I think the play of Jamaal Williams, and the fact that Detroit's run game hasn't really missed a beat without Swift, could also factor in. Detroit's certainly missed Swift in the passing game, but the run game has held down the fort with Williams, Craig Reynolds and Justin Jackson. I would let Swift sit and get him back to being the impact player we know he can be Week 7.

20man: I can tell you with 100 percent certainty this coaching staff loves Jacobs and his game. He's physical, tough, loves to compete, has a ton of confidence, and plays the run. I talked to him in the locker room on Wednesday and that is one confident kid. All things Dan Campbell loves in a player.

Jacobs played over 300 cover snaps last year and allowed one touchdown. I think as soon as he's ready to play he mixes into the lineup and if he plays well, is a starter sooner rather than later.

20man: That's a good question because when you look at how this defense has played over the first month of the season, it's fair to ask who the foundational pieces are and wonder where this team can afford to make changes without adversely affecting the growth of those players.

Defensive line: I'd say Hutchinson and McNeill. Hutchinson was the No. 2 overall pick, that makes him a foundational piece by default, but the team obviously thinks highly of his future. He does need to be more consistently productive moving forward, however.

Linebacker: This is one of the bigger issues for me. Malcolm Rodriguez has proven to be a foundational piece, but that's where the list starts and ends with me. I like Chris Board's game and think he can be one of those guys, but I've got to see more of him on defense. I expect this to be a position group Brad Holmes targets for an upgrade this offseason. They need more speed here.

Secondary: Cornerback Jeff Okudah and safety Tracy Walker. Okudah's been really good to start the season. He gave up some plays last week, but this is the NFL, it happens to every cornerback. He's played like a No. 3 overall pick. It's unfortunate Walker is lost for the year with an Achilles injury suffered in Minnesota Week 3. That's a bigger loss than most people realize. He can do a lot of things at the safety position.

20man: Well, I certainly hope so, because last week was hard to watch.

We've seen quick turnarounds before in this league. Kansas City's defense last year after the first four games is a good example defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn pointed to on Thursday. But I'm a little skeptical that the Lions have the depth to make a lot of personnel changes that would make a huge impact.

At some point the guys they have need to become bigger impact playmakers, guys like Hutchinson, Charles Harris, McNeill and Amani Oruwariye.

20man: The one thing we have to remember about Joseph is he was only a one-year starter in college at Illinois after making the transition from receiver to safety. Last week was his first NFL game action. That's not an excuse, and Joseph will be the first one to say he expects to and will play better, but it's just a bit of a perspective.

Dating back to training camp, I always thought Joseph was going to be a bit of a project, but the only way to get better is to jump in there and face the live reps. He's going to make some mistakes, but he's shown he can make some plays not every other guy playing that spot can make.

He got a shot to play because of injuries in front of him, but to keep getting an opportunity, he needs to take bigger strides. It's always an evaluation year for every player on the roster. Nothing is guaranteed in this league, even to a third-round pick like Joseph.

20man: Derrick Barnes is at a bit of a crossroads, and it will be interesting to see if he's part of the revamped plans currently under way for this defense. He played 22 defensive snaps Week 1 (29 percent), then none Weeks 2 & 3, and 23 (33 percent) last week. He simply hasn't shown me enough in 21 games to say he's a foundational piece on defense moving forward. That's not to say he can't be, but I just haven't seen it yet.

John Cominsky was a bigger loss than most realize. He was terrific at setting up teammates on those interior stunts with his tenacity, but was also able to get his own at the same time. He's a very selfless and unrelenting player. He can't get back soon enough. Hopefully after the bye.

20man: I'd be cautious of putting too much on Jameson Williams' plate early on. I've always said I expect him back sometime in November, and I still think that's the logical timeline.

He hasn't practiced against NFL talent yet, let alone been schemed against. How does he release off the line with his frame against press man? I can't tell you. How's his route running? No clue. What about his hands? No idea.

I think he can come in and make some plays down the field because of his pure speed and open some things up for some other players, but I'm certainly not expecting him to come in the second half of the season as a rookie and be a consistent 100-yard producer.

This league is hard and there's an adjustment period that needs to take place with any player coming into it. Most rookies get that in training camp. Williams unfortunately will have to come in to live game action. Not an easy ask.

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