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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Why haven't Lions put Stafford on IR?

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: Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (6-5, 318) is an interesting name for me. He's a three-year starter and three-down monster inside with 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries on the season. He fits a need, and could also be best available depending on where the Lions end up picking.

20man: Amani Oruwariye has looked pretty good in his first three starts. It will be interesting to see how he plays down the stretch and finishes the year out. He was performing well in practice, and then Rashaan Melvin got hurt and he got an opportunity to play. He's rolled with it.

Oruwariye is long (6-2, 205) and athletic, and if he plays well down the stretch, there's no reason to think he can't be right there competing for a starting spot in his second season.

20man: It isn't hurting anything keeping him on the active roster, and it allows him to be at practice and work with David Blough and the other quarterbacks.

Last I talked to Stafford, he still wanted to try and play. The last time Matt Patricia was asked about him, he said Stafford was still "week-to-week" with the back injury.

I don't know if Stafford will play again this year, it seems unlikely at this point, but being on the active roster allows him that opportunity. He can also remain more involved with the preparation of the other quarterbacks week to week.

20man: Johnson was a full go at practice this week. He took a lot of reps at the open portion of practice Thursday with Bo Scarbrough sitting out due to a rib injury. J.D. McKissic took first reps.

The rules of IR designated for return state that Johnson can return to practice for 21 days before the Lions have to decide what to do with his roster status. He can return to game action after sitting out eight games. Sunday will be the eighth game, and Johnson is eligible to return Week 16 in Denver.

20man: I think it's kind of been a perfect storm of a lot of different factors.

There were a number of players early in the year who missed a lot of camp and had slow starts to the season. Trey Flowers, Mike Daniels, Damon Harrison Sr. and Jarrad Davis are among those players at key spots on the defense. Add in some of the injury issues with a player like Da'Shawn Hand, who was expected to play a big role in his second season. He played just three games all year.  

Flowers has picked it up, obviously, with six sacks in his last six games, but it took some time for him to get back into the swing of things and for his shoulder to feel 100 percent. Davis has played better of late, and Daniels is coming off his best performance of the year, but it's obviously too late to save the season.

We can talk about scheme and play calling and blitz percentage, and those are all factors, but at the end of the day, a player has to win a matchup and make a play. They simply haven't had enough of that all year on that side of the ball. 

A couple positives I see on defense has been the play of Flowers over the last month and a half. He's been the player the Lions thought he'd be for them. Linebacker Jahlani Tavai is coming off a double-digit tackle game, and he's shown flashes of playmaking ability with two sacks and five tackles for loss. Safety Tracy Walker looks like he's going to be a pretty good player in the backend of the defense.

That side of the ball has to be better, no-doubt, and that will likely be a main focus this offseason in free agency and the draft.

20man: I wouldn't be too worried about Hockenson. His rookie numbers were in line with what we see from most rookies at the position, including some of the top guys in the league right now. I think he's going to be a good player.

Jesse James' production has been disappointing. 

Teams adjusted to Hockenson a bit after the big debut, which is what defenses in this league do. As a rookie, that's a tough adjustment sometimes, and Hockenson also dealt with some of the expected inconsistencies young players deal with, especially at that position.

This isn't an offense under Darrell Bevell that's going to force feed any one pass catcher. It's a matchup offense predicated on distributing the ball around. Detroit's had a ton of success this season throwing outside the numbers and down the field, which is why both wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. were trending toward dual 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown seasons before Jones went on IR this week. There's only one ball.

Hockenson will be a key part of Detroit's offense moving forward, I have no doubt about that.

20man: I think you can say there are a lot of parts about the offense that are better. Bevell seems like a good hire at OC. He had Stafford and the passing game playing at an elite level before Stafford got hurt Week 9. 

Golladay is quickly emerging as one of the league's bright, young receivers. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets Pro Bowl votes from his fellow players and coaches.

Johnson, when healthy, has made Detroit's rushing offense a respectable threat, and that's carried on the last month with Scarbrough in the backfield. Johnson still has to prove he can stay healthy.

The decline on defense has been the real head scratcher, especially after how they finished last season, and with Patricia's reputation as a defensive innovator. The level of play hasn't matched some of the talent on that side of the ball, for whatever reason, and that's certainly a troubling trend.  

This is a 3-9-1 football team that's taken a step back. Is it a step back to take a greater step forward? Until the process plays itself out, we won't know.

20man: Most thought the strength of this team going into the season would be their defensive line, and that just hasn't materialized. It's been an inconsistent unit all year that's struggled to generate consistent pressure and disruption upfront. Adding another playmaker on the edge or inside at defensive tackle seems like a must this offseason.

20man: Patricia will evaluate his staff after the season, just as the coaches evaluate the players. He could decide to tweak his staff. But make no mistake, this is Patricia's defense, and it will continue to be Patricia's defense as long as he's the head coach.

20man: We'll see what happens, but in my opinion, I don't think so.

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