Skip to main content

10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Will injuries at WR limit offense in Dallas?

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 defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson for me. It's been a pretty slow start to the season for the No. 2 overall pick outside of a three-sack half vs. Washington Week 2. He's had opportunities to make plays, but hasn't always been able to finish.

Here's what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of Hutchinson coming out of the bye: "I'm trying to get him to calm himself down, so he won't get out of character. Man, just continue to work and we're going to continue to do what we have to do to put you in positions. So, you just close yourself off from everything, man, and go play and I think he's going to do a good job this week."

The Lions definitely need Hutchinson to apply more pressure if they're going to be better on defense.

20man: I think some people will look at Dallas' defensive front seven and their NFL-leading 24.0 sacks anchored by second-year playmaker Micah Parsons, as a potential mismatch in favor of Dallas on Sunday. But Detroit's offensive line is their strength. The Lions are tied for the league lead in allowing only seven sacks on the year. I get the sense talking to Lions players and coaches they like their matchups upfront on offense.

For me, the biggest mismatch in this game is the Lions front seven on defense against the dynamic Dallas rushing duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. That duo has combined for 678 yards and four touchdowns, and face a Lions' run defense that has allowed nearly 168 yards a game and 838 rushing yards total.

20man: It's a good question. I thought they could have been a little more aggressive in free agency this past offseason looking to shore up the defensive side of the ball a bit more with a couple veteran moves.

The rebuilding plan for Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell has always been to play the long game and build through the NFL Draft. Three of their first four draft picks were on the defensive side of the ball with Hutchinson, Josh Paschal and Kerby Joseph. I'm guessing the coaches expected a little more impact from those three than they've gotten so far, but it's still early. We'll see what Paschal brings to the table as he returns from sports hernia surgery.

Detroit has some dead money coming off the books next offseason and the salary cap is expected to rise. They'll have the space to add a couple veterans to the mix in free agency. After playing the long game and building through the draft their first couple years, the third year of this regime is time to start complementing those youngsters with some veteran playmakers.

20man: I think that's premature. The Lions were without arguably their best matchup weapon in running back D’Andre Swift against New England, and wide receiver Amon-Ra. St. Brown was admittedly limited with a high ankle sprain. He didn't look like the same player, but kudos to him for trying to battle through it knowing he had the bye week coming up to rest up. Bill Belichick and the Patriots did a nice job taking tight end T.J. Hockenson away with Swift absent and St. Brown limited. It was one bad game on offense against one of the best defensive minds to ever do it, while also being shorthanded.

Johnson and the offense has been terrific in their other four contests. I'm not worried about the offense at all, especially with the offensive line they have. They've shown me enough dating back to training camp that I think they'll be just fine on that side of the ball, especially if Swift returns and St. Brown looks more like himself.

20man: It's been a rough start, no doubt, but there's still a long way to go. It's Week 7 of 18. That being said, I do feel a sense of urgency around Allen Park. No panic yet, but urgency.

In the NFL you are what your record says you are, but when I look at this team and the first five games I see a team better than their 1-4 record would indicate. I see a team that very easily could be 3-2 and have a different narrative around them. That's not the reality, and they need to learn how to get out of their own way and find a way to make those few critical plays late that help finish games.

The answer is pretty easy for me. The Lions salvage the rest of the season if this defense can at the very least be marginally better.

20man: With how good the offense has been to start the year, I'd certainly consider it if I was Holmes. One of the issues to consider is the Lions have under $2 million in available cap space according to, which is always a factor in these decisions. Teams can always manufacture cap space, but there's a cost down the line in doing that.

The deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 4 p.m. The Lions will have two more games under their belt before the deadline. At 3-4, there's probably more of a likelihood they look to add a player to help the defense vs. if they're 1-6 or 2-5.

20man: It's a good sign he's back at practice this week in limited fashion, but I didn't like the fact that he was sitting out some of the individual drills with the running backs on Thursday during the open period. He's dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries, but I think the bigger concern of the two right now is the shoulder.

I'm guessing he'll be listed as questionable on Friday's injury report, but after watching him in practice Thursday, I'm probably leaning a little bit more 40-60 on him playing. Let's hope I'm wrong because he's so important to that offense and the passing game, especially if wide receivers DJ Chark (ankle) and Josh Reynolds (knee) are out.

20man: They aren't officially on the active roster, so the team doesn't have to give them a practice designation. Both players are currently in their 21-day practice window for the team to decide to activate them off the PUP list to the active roster. I'd expect the team to do that with Paschal this week and for him to make his NFL debut on Sunday.

I'm not quite sure about Jacobs yet. Campbell made the comment the other day that they're still trying to get Jacobs' legs under him. Maybe it's another week before we see him out there on Sunday. We'll see.

20man: No. And no.

It's certainly been frustrating for Lions fans to watch teams like the Giants and Jets get off to the starts they have in their rebuilding process. The Lions have had their opportunities to be one of those teams early this season, but haven't capitalized on that opportunity, especially against Minnesota and Seattle.

Let's see where these next 12 games take us before we start talking about hot seats. Can Campbell and the defensive coaches push the right buttons to improve the defense? Can this young team learn how to finish games more consistently? I think the next 12 games will tell us a lot about this team and coaching staff.

20man: I don't think so on Mitchell playing receiver. It's more likely T.J. Hockenson stands up and plays a little bit more outside before we see Mitchell do it.

The Lions are down their top three players at the "X" receiver position with Chark (ankle), Reynolds (knee) and Quintez Cephus (IR) battling injury. I don't expect Chark to play in Dallas. We'll see with Reynolds. Him not playing Sunday would be a big loss. He missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday, which isn't ideal. He's got some good chemistry with quarterback Jared Goff and is currently leading the team in receiving yards.

If Chark and Reynolds don't play, it will be interesting to see if the Lions bring up a practice squad receiver like Brandon Zylstra (6-2, 215), Josh Johnson (5-11, 179) or Stanley Berryhill (5-9, 182) for Sunday to give them a deep threat.

When it comes to Okwara, Campbell seemed optimistic the other day we could see Okwara at some point this season. Achilles injuries can be finicky sometimes. Everyone heals at different rates. I'd be a little surprised if we saw him this year with it already being late October, but hopefully we do. The Lions have missed him on the edge.

Related Content