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: Good question.
There's a number of options here but I'm going with Dan Campbell retaining offensive line coach Hank Fraley from Matt Patricia's staff. Fraley is one of the best assistant coaches fans don't hear enough about.
A former player who has the utmost respect from not only every single player in the o-line room but really from every player in the locker room. Detroit's had their top five offensive linemen play a grand total of one game together over the last three seasons and yet they remain one of the top units in football.
All the movement upfront and new players coming in and out has all been pretty seamless thanks to Fraley. We see tangible development from young players who come here. Fraley is also a big reason why Detroit's run game has been as good as it has the last two seasons. He's a terrific football coach.
20man: My gut tells me it will be another week for Branch.
He sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday, though he was working off to the side with trainers both days and that's always a good sign. I just don't think the Lions want this ankle injury to linger. It seems like he's close but another week of rest and rehab should set him up nicely for their Week 7 matchup in Baltimore against the Ravens.
20man: Lions general manager Brad Holmes has proven he's willing to be aggressive at the deadline as evidenced by last year's trade of tight end T.J. Hockenson.
The trade deadline is 4 p.m. on Halloween and the Lions have three games to play before then. A lot can happen in three weeks in terms of injuries and with teams who will have to decide if they are sellers or not. I think if Holmes sees an opportunity to improve the depth and talent here he'll have no reservations about making a trade.
It's a little early to start talking about specific names, but Detroit is an injury to Cam Sutton or Jerry Jacobs away from being very thin at cornerback. Teams can also never have too many pass rushers and interior defensive linemen, and that's another spot I could see Holmes getting aggressive with if a player becomes available he thinks can help them.
20man: I mentioned Sutton and Jacobs above and I think their matchups on the outside are critical Sunday. Bucs wide receivers Mike Evans (1,124) and Chris Godwin (1,023) were one of just five sets of receivers in the NFL last season to both eclipse 1,000 receiving yards. Evans has 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first nine seasons in the league.
This season, both players have over 20-plus receptions and 250-plus receiving yards, making them just the seventh duo to do so. Quarterback Baker Mayfield leads the NFL in completion percentage on third down (79.5 percent) and third-down passer rating (140.7). Can the Lions win those matchups on the outside, limit the big plays in the passing game to Evans and Godwin and be good on third down when they know Mayfield will be looking for Evans and Godwin? Those are two key matchups for me in this one.
It's worth noting Evans missed practice Wednesday & was limited Thursday with a hamstring injury so that will be something to monitor.
20man: Sutton was part of the trio of free agents Holmes brought in this offseason to revamp the secondary along with C.J. Garner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley. After just five weeks Sutton is the only one left after Gardner-Johnson tore his pec Week 2 and Moseley was lost for the year with another ACL tear.
Sutton has been as good as advertised so far this season for the Lions. He's a tough, gritty cornerback who supports the run. He's allowed 14 receptions in his coverage area in five games for just 179 yards, which comes out to 35.8 yards per game on average with just one touchdown against. He's been a terrific sounding board for the young players in that room. He's really settled down one side of the field for this defense and he's got a terrific matchup this week if he lines up across from Evans.
20man: Right now, I see a Lions' offense that's ranked fourth in points scored (29.6), sixth in total offense (384.4), seventh in rushing (141.0) and ninth in passing (243.4). Call me crazy, but I say keep doing what you're doing if you're Ben Johnson.
Jameson Williams will work himself back and continue to get more reps, but I'm not force-feeding the ball to him over Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta and Josh Reynolds right now. I'll look his way on a couple shot plays, and if he's open in the regular flow of the passing game I'll look to him, but Williams just needs to operate in the offense and make plays that are there. The threat of Williams and his home-run speed helps everyone else even when he isn't getting the football.
As far as Gibbs, I think people maybe forget that he's had over 50 scrimmage yards in every game he's played this season as the clear No. 2 to David Montgomery. The Lions have gotten him involved in the passing game early and often, but Detroit's also seen an uptick in what Johnson calls the 'butch technique' in which teams really try to get their hands on Gibbs and are physical with him within the allowed five-yard contact zone. It's something Gibbs will have to work through, and something Johnson will have to try to scheme against to get him in space.
20man: Aidan Hutchinson is among the top five graded edge rushers in the NFL per Pro Football Focus right there with Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt and Maxx Crosby. Not bad company to keep. He leads the entire group in total pressures (35) and his 26 hurries are just one behind Crosby for the league lead.
But we both know sack numbers and team wins play a huge factor in an edge rusher winning DPOY. Hutchinson's 4.5 currently ranks 12th in the NFL. Watt leads the league with eight. I think for Hutchinson to be in the conversation at the end of the year the Lions have to be a playoff team, he continues the pressures, hurries and hits numbers and has a couple more game-changing plays like last week's interception – the fourth of his young career.
I think he'll also probably have to finish in top five in sacks which will likely be in the 14-20 range. I went back and looked at the last 10 defensive linemen to win the DPOY award the average number of sacks between them was 17.5.
20man: The last I heard was the injury was a clean tear of the pectoral muscle, which makes the surgery less complicated and players have shown in the past they can return a little quicker from such a tear. Campbell was optimistic Gardner-Johnson could potentially return at the end of the season, but I feel like that would be absolute best-case scenario.
I certainly wouldn't put anything past Gardner-Johnson with the way he prepares, trains and rehabs. He's going to want to be back, especially if the Lions make the playoffs, but I'm not penciling him in just yet.
20man: I like this matchup for Detroit this week, but Tampa Bay has a good defense that's been very good at taking the ball away from offense's this season. Their 10 takeaways (6 int., 4 fumbles) are the fifth most in the NFL. Their offense has been very opportunistic from those turnovers.
To me this is a game on the road where quarterback Jared Goff has to continue to be a good decision maker and take care of the ball. Turnovers are such a huge factor in wins and losses and the easiest way to lose on the road is to turn the football over and give Tampa Bay extra positions with their weapons on the outside.
20man: I think that's a fair question given the points you've made. I talked about Sutton above and I think he's as consistent as they come. Jerry Jacobs has been playing some good football over the last three weeks, but this week will be a terrific test for him, much like Seattle was with their weapons at receiver. Branch certainly doesn't play like a rookie and will continue to get better. Tracy Walker and Kerby Joseph are solid at safety, with Joseph being a little better in the pass game than Walker and Walker being better against the run.
What we have to remember here is the marriage between the rush and cover, and how good defenses have a good marriage. Detroit's defensive front has been good at pressuring the quarterback in every game but Seattle, and like you mentioned, that was Detroit's worst game as a unit in the secondary. I think Detroit has a solid secondary, but they have to be complemented by their defensive line to play to their potential.