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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: What will Lions do at linebacker if Anzalone can't go?

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 a good question because the Lions will miss Alex Anzalone if he's not able to play. He's not only a captain on defense, but he's also their leading tackler and best cover linebacker. The latter is important this week because Saints running back Alvin Kamara is one of the best receiving backs in the NFL leading all backs with 54 receptions on the year.

Derrick Barnes is very comfortable wearing the green dot and calling the plays. He's done that in the past, but defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said rookie Jack Campbell will handle the play-calling duties if Anzalone can't play. This is a great opportunity for the rookie to show why the Lions made him the No. 18 overall pick in this year's draft. I also expect to see Malcolm Rodriguez, who started 15 games on defense last year, and veteran Jalen Reeves-Maybin to sprinkle in.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this week he's got a lot of confidence in the linebacker room and thinks it's one of the deepest positions on the team. He expects them to play well even if they don't have Anzalone.

20man: I think quarterback Jared Goff is looking forward to getting back on the field and playing well Sunday in New Orleans. It's not that Goff has played bad the last two weeks, but turnovers have been an issue with three interceptions in a come-from-behind win over Chicago and three fumbles in the loss on Thanksgiving to Green Bay. Not all of those were his fault, but he knows he has to take care of the football and limit the turnovers.

"I haven't made a habit of fumbling often, so I'm confident I'll get that fixed pretty quickly," Goff said this week. "But yeah, ultimately, it's just tucking the ball and taking care of it."

I expect Goff to come out Sunday and play well and for this offense to score points.

20man: They better be. Taysom Hill is such a unique threat in that he can throw it, catch it and obviously run with it. He's a rare weapon, especially in the red zone. Aaron Glenn and the Lions' defense will need to have a good plan as the Lions come in ranked 30th in the NFL in red zone defense (68.6 percent).

Glenn spent four years in New Orleans as the defensive backs coach from 2016-20 and got a close-up look at Hill every day. He certainly knows what Hill can do and he'll need to have a good plan of attack for him.

20man: We'll find out this weekend if the Lions elevate Bruce Irvin from the practice squad. I actually stopped by his locker this week and chatted for a bit and he told me this when I asked him what kind of impact he thinks he can have on Detroit's pass rush.

"A lot," he said. "I don't want to (make any predictions) but I think I can contribute quite a bit."

No real updates on the other two other than it was good to see James Houston at practice the other day working off to the side dragging a sled around. It's a good sign he's working his way back.

20man: They miss both players, but C.J. Gardner-Johnson was brought here because of his ball skills and ability to take away the football and that's something that's been missing from this defense of late.

Detroit's 12 takeaways on the year are tied for 26th in the league. It was something Campbell stressed this week. I don't think that opening 53-yard bomb by Green Bay on Thanksgiving that set an early tone happens with Gardner-Johnson playing center field there.

20man: The defense has taken its fair share of criticism this year but just look at the numbers from Week 13 last year to Week 13 this year.

Last year, Detroit entered Week 13 ranked 32nd in points allowed (28.2), 32nd in total defense (414.5), 30th in rushing (154.6) and 29th against the pass (259.9). They were in the midst of a second-half transformation on defense, but the numbers were still not good. This year, Detroit is 24th in points allowed (23.5), 10th in total defense (318.8), fifth against the run (91.3) and 20th against the pass (227.5). Big difference.

The offense was always going to be a strength but heading into this year we knew if the defense could be markedly better this team would be in a position to win more games. That's what we've seen for the most part over their 8-3 start.

20man: Jonah Jackson returned to practice this week on a limited basis which tells me structurally things are good in the injured wrist that cost him the last two games. I think as a former player Campbell knows it's probably an issue of pain tolerance and function ability. Jackson is a veteran player. Campbell will trust him to tell them if he thinks he can go or not.

20man: I think the return of Jackson would go a long way. I thought Colby Sorsdal and Kayode Awosika struggled a bit against the Packers. Getting Jackson back would give the Lions their top five up front. If he's not back, they'll need a better afternoon by one or both of those players.

That's a pretty prideful group upfront and they know they didn't win enough of their one-on-ones against the Packers and play to their standard. I suspect they took it personal this week. New Orleans has a good front and good defense overall but I'd be really surprised if those guys upfront don't play a lot better this week.

20man: Want to know the wild part about this? The Lions were the only team in the NFL until Thanksgiving that hadn't scored a single point on their first possession of the second half. For how good this offense has been all year I thought that was a surprising stat broken up by the David Montgomery touchdown to kick off the third quarter against the Packers.

Maybe it's just me, maybe the analytics say something different, but I want my strength on the field to start and in Detroit that's the offense. Set the tone with that o-line and the offense.

20man: It was good to see Hendon Hooker back at practice Wednesday and having fun. It's been a long year for that young man. But let's also keep a clear picture of his current role. He talked Wednesday about simply adjusting to taking snaps under center having not done it his previous six seasons in college playing out of the shotgun. He joked about getting used to throwing in shoulder pads again. He couldn't throw with pads on in his rehab workouts. The Lions want to work with him in practice and start developing him.

He's a long way from pushing either Goff or backup Teddy Bridgewater, who are securely entrenched as the No. 1 and No. 2 in that room. Goff's game has been Pro Bowl caliber most of the season. He just needs to limit the recent turnovers and he'll be just fine.

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