10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Will Onwuzurike make his regular-season debut this week?

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: Let's start by saying it's a good problem for the Lions to have. Detroit has two high level starting-caliber left tackles on the roster in Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker they feel really good about.

The fact that Decker has never played right tackle in the NFL and all his muscle memory is on the left side from years of working his craft at a high level leads me to think that when Decker does come back, Sewell will shift over to the right side, somewhere he's recently trained at and where he played all offseason and training camp.

I talked to offensive line coach Hank Fraley on Thursday, and this is what he said when asked about it: "There's been no discussion on that stuff. Right now Taylor, in my mind, is our left tackle and Penei is our right tackle and when Taylor isn't playing Penei is our left tackle and Matt Nelson is the right tackle. That's how we're doing things."

It seems pretty cut and dried to me. We'll see if opinions change in a few weeks when Decker is expected back.

20man: Yes, especially since the Lions blitzed on half of the 49ers' drop backs, but managed just one sack, per Pro Football Reference tracking. Detroit was credited with just six total hurries in the contest, and half of those came from outside linebacker Romeo Okwara.

Detroit has to do a better job this week getting home with the pressure, or at least speeding up Aaron Rodgers' clock. New Orleans was able to hurry him eight times in their Week 1 win over the Packers with two sacks.

Beyond just generating pressure, the edge players at outside linebacker need to do a much better job setting the edge in the run game.

20man: Levi Onwuzurike has been battling a hip injury the last couple weeks that kept him limited in practice last week. The coaches gave him a pretty thorough workout Sunday before the game, and though he was inactive Week 1, head coach Dan Campbell said Thursday Onwuzurike came out of that workout pretty good and he's trending toward being active this week. Hopefully there aren't any setbacks in practice this week.

That's certainly good news for the Lions' defense, because Onwuzurike is one of the rookies I consider to have breakout potential. I think that highly of his talent and ability to be disruptive in the middle.

20man: It's certainly not an easy matchup for Ifeatu Melifonwu against Rodgers, Davante Adams and the rest of the Packers' offense up there in Green Bay. After a rough performance vs. New Orleans last week, the Packers will look to right the ship against a defense that ranks last in the NFL in points allowed after Week 1.

Rodgers is a veteran quarterback who will feast on a young cornerback if given the opportunity, just ask Jeff Okudah last year, who like Melifonwu, made his first start in Green Bay against Rodgers and the Packers.

What will be interesting to me is to see how defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn approaches this matchup. Will he travel the more experienced Amani Oruwariye, who is now Detroit's top cornerback, with Adams? Or will he let his corners play sides.

Melifonwu was a third-round pick, and his athletic traits are off the charts at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds with a 41.5-inch vertical and 4.48 speed. The coaches like how he's developed since getting here. There really is no substitute for experience, however, and that's something he doesn't have a lot of. I'm guessing Glenn will try to put him in the best situations to succeed by giving him help and not leaving him on an island too often if he can help it. We'll see what the kid has come Sunday.

20man: I don't see why not. We all knew the offensive line and the duo of D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams was going to be a real strength of this football team. The 49ers knew that too, and Detroit still had success running the football before they got behind and had to abandon it, which shows there's a sustainability factor with it.

Detroit averaged 4.8 yards per carry against a really good 49ers front seven. New Orleans rushed for 171 yards with a 4.4 average last week in a big win over Green Bay.

20man: I was just having this conversation with another reporter at practice the other day, and we both agreed it probably would have been beneficial with all the new players in Detroit for Jared Goff to play a little more in the preseason. I thought not having joint practices during camp was a big loss too. Teams get a lot of great work out of those controlled practices, especially the quarterbacks.

It's a new offense and a brand new receiver corps. Teams can practice in camp and simulate all the situations they want, but when it comes time for the regular season, the speed is just different, and it can't be replicated anywhere else.

I thought it was encouraging how involved the receivers were in the fourth quarter (11 receptions), especially without Tyrell Williams (concussion protocol), but that group had just two receptions heading into fourth quarter last week. Detroit's receivers have to get more involved earlier than that Monday.

20man: One thing to remember is that a lot of the defensive concepts here in Detroit were brought over from New Orleans, where Glenn was the defensive backs coach the last five seasons. Did New Orleans put together a good blueprint on how to attack the Packers' offense with some of their success in their blowout win last week? The Lions have certainly looked over that tape from last week very closely.

That being said, the Saints have a more talented defensive roster, so that has to be considered as well.

The one thing that should have Lions fans a little uneasy is how Rodgers has responded to bad performances in the past. His 36.8 passer rating last week was the fourth lowest of his career since taking over as a full-time starter in 2008. In the games immediately following Rodgers' previous five worst passer-rating performances, he has a 4-1 record with a combined 117.7 passer rating while competing 70 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and just one interception.

Which Rodgers will show up Monday night?

20man: Teams don't do much tackling in practice once they get into the regular season. They try to take care of that in training camp and the preseason, and Campbell did work on tackling and do more live tackling drills in training camp than any previous coach in the 13 years I've been covering the team.

Still, to your point, there's room for improvement there. According to PFF stats, the Lions' 12 missed tackles Week 1 tied for the eighth most in the NFL. Their missed-tackle percentage of 17 percent was the third highest. Eight different players were credited with missing tackles, with Will Harris and Romeo Okwara missing two, per PFF stats. It's another area the Lions need to improve on from Week 1 to Week 2.

20man: He didn't get a ton of opportunity to play with the Lions in nickel just 21 snaps last week, but I thought he did well in those reps. I guess the biggest praise I can give him is that I didn't really notice him. He made a couple tackles and wasn't targeted in the passing game in 11 coverage snaps. I guess that speaks to his coverage ability in that game.

Pro Football Focus had the second-highest grade on him from all Detroit defenders against the 49ers. Good debut for him.

20man: It's good they showed some grit, fight and pride to get back into that game, and that's an extension of the coaching staff.

San Francisco took their foot off the gas though, and I'm betting that's a mistake Kyle Shanahan won't make again.

It was disappointing how the Lions played early on. They had four trips into San Francisco territory in the first four possessions and got just 10 points on the board. You can't have a pick-six in two-minute offense at end of first half, and mis-alignments on defense cost them on a couple big runs.

You have to like the fact that they didn't quit and fought to get back into the contest last week, but there's a lot to clean up moving forward.

Related Content

Advertising