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: I wouldn’t look too much into who plays the first play or is considered a “starter.” Hockenson and James rotate in and out pretty consistently. Don’t be surprised to see them on the field a lot together this season in some 12 personnel looks.
Hockenson is going to have a big role. He’s a stout blocker on the edge. I don’t think there was a day that went by in training camp where he and quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t hook up on a key red-zone conversion. He was the No. 8 overall pick for a reason, and he’s going to be a big part of what the Lions do offensively in 2019.
20man: We’ll have to see later today what Davis’ game designation is on the injury report, but he didn’t do a whole lot early in the week at the open portion of practice to the media.
If Davis doesn’t play, I expect a combination of second-round pick Jahlani Tavai and veteran Jalen Reeves-Maybin to fill those duties. Tavai hasn’t looked out of place as a rookie in that role, and I thought Reeves-Maybin had a really good camp, especially as a cover man on passing downs. Reeves-Maybin is fast and plays well in space, which could really fit Detroit’s defensive scheme this week facing a spread offense run by a mobile quarterback.
20man: It’s hard to consider anything a weakness before seeing them play in a real game. I’ll say two question marks for me heading into the regular season are the interior of the offensive line and the cornerback spot opposite Darius Slay.
The Lions have juggled things around upfront with Frank Ragnow at center, Graham Glasgow at right guard and Joe Dahl stepping in at left guard. Ragnow hasn’t played center in the NFL and Dahl’s been mostly a backup up to this point. Those were the best three interior guys in camp, but now it counts for real, and there are some question marks with that group heading into Arizona.
Rashaan Melvin is a vet, and he’s been fine in camp, but he’s dealing with a knee injury and has been limited in practice this week. If it keeps him out Sunday, or limits him in any way, it will be curious what the Lions decide to do. Would they put the rookie Amani Oruwariye in? Could Justin Coleman play outside in some situations?
Those are probably the two biggest questions for me heading into Sunday.
20man: I don’t know who everyone is, but maybe people look at the tough schedule to start the season or some additions other teams have made in the division or simply can’t get past last year’s disappointing season.
I see a much improved roster, especially defensively. The additions of Trey Flowers, Mike Daniels and Coleman should make a big impact there.
The tight end group is by far the most improved unit on offense, and I like the wide receiver group with 1,000-yard receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. and the crafty Danny Amendola in the slot.
On paper, it’s an improved roster, and should be a better team than the one Patricia had in his first season. Whether that translates to more wins is yet to be determined.
20man: It’s always good to cross-train players and mix up groups because injuries are going to happen and it’s rare the same five players are together all season. That’s just the reality of the NFL. Having some familiarity with different personnel groupings is good.
I will say this, however: The combination of Taylor Decker, Dahl, Ragnow, Glasgow and Rick Wagner have played together with the first unit pretty consistently the last few weeks. That included most of the joint practices, where the players got their best work in during camp practicing against New England and Houston. Those five guys have gotten a lot of work together. The Lions just didn’t show it in the preseason, which is the norm around the league these days.
20man: Good question. Green Bay knew they couldn’t keep putting all their eggs in the Aaron Rodgers basket any longer. He’s been hurt the last two seasons and the Packers have suffered because of it.
They revamped their front seven on defense and spent big on edge rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith in free agency. They drafted Michigan’s Rashan Gary in the first round. Green Bay had to be better on defense, and I think that side of the ball probably went through the biggest transformation of any team in the division.
20man: If you’ve followed me long enough you know I don’t make record predictions. There’s just too many factors week to week – mainly injuries – that play into wins and losses in this league.
Here’s how I always answer this question when someone asks in this column or in interviews I do:
There are four or five teams we know right now are going to be 10-plus win teams.
There are four or five teams that will probably struggle to win more than five games.
Everyone else is an 8-8 type team, and if they stay healthy, and the ball bounces their way in some games, they can be a 10-win team. If injuries hit, and they get a few unlucky bounces, they’re probably a six-win team. I think the Lions are in this group with most of the league.
20man: I can tell you that is the goal of every defense heading into every game. It’s demoralizing for a defense when an offense can run the ball with consistency and control the game on the ground.
The problem playing teams like Arizona with Kyler Murray is he presents a dual threat at the QB position. Dual-threat players are so good at creating something out of nothing when plays break down. That’s the difficult part on defense. A defense can do everything right, and those players are just so athletically gifted they can make something out of nothing with their legs.
Detroit’s likely goal heading into Sunday will be to contain David Johnson on the ground first and foremost, and be disciplined in their rush of Murray to make him a passer and not a runner.
20man: I think on paper they have the pieces. Upfront they are stacked. I mean really stacked. There are rotational guys on this team that could start for most the league.
The linebackers are versatile and productive. They will benefit from playing directly behind those guys up front.
Quandre Diggs is a Pro Bowl caliber safety, and you heard it here first that Tracy Walker has breakout potential with his freaky athleticism.
We all know what Slay can do, and Coleman is a big upgrade in the slot. The biggest key for this defense is what kind of production they get at the other cornerback spot. That’s the big question on that side of the ball.
20man: Coaches and players will never talk that way because it’s ingrained in them that every week is critical because they get only 16 of them.
Honestly though, looking at what lies ahead with Los Angeles (Chargers), Philadelphia, Kansas City and Green Bay at Lambeau on Monday Night Football as the next four after Arizona, this is an important game for Detroit to go on the road and get a win against a team that won three games last year and has a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback starting.