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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Will Swift see more carries?

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: That question is probably keeping Lions head coach Matt Patricia and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin up at night this week.

To me, this is exactly the kind of matchup the Lions had to be thinking about when they signed veteran linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. in free agency. Collins is big, fast and rangy, and has been one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL based off the analytics the last few years.

He had an interception last week in Arizona, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's tasked with trying to slow down Kamara in the passing game at points throughout this game.

20man: I look at it kind of like this: If it's not broken, then why try to fix it?

I think it's more just a product of going with the hot hand early on. Adrian Peterson is a tough, downhill runner with good vision and balance. He's been able to break off chunk runs early on, and his running style seems to fit the blocking schemes in front of him.

The Lions are averaging better than 100 yards (105.7) on the ground per game with a 4.1 yards per carry average. They have three runs of 20-plus yards, all from Peterson, which ranks top six in the league. Peterson's seven runs of 10-plus yards are tied for sixth most, and he's averaging 4.9 yards per carry individually.

That being said, Kerryon Johnson and D'Andre Swift will be ready whenever their number is called to take on more carries. They both are settling into their own roles nicely. I don't like the strategy of just force feeding a player to get him carries. Carries are earned, and right now Peterson has earned them.

20man: Michael Thomas was a limited participant in practice for the Saints Wednesday and Thursday, and his availability for Sunday is still a question mark.

I don't know if the overall defensive scheme changes significantly for Detroit's defense with or without Thomas. New Orleans doesn't change what they want to do on offense without Thomas. Everything still goes through Drew Brees and the passing game, and they want to use play action to set up big plays down the field. They're obviously much more efficient in that regard with the reigning offensive player of the year in the lineup vs. not having him.

Detroit certainly has to account for Thomas when he's there, and that probably means a little more safety help than if he wasn't playing, but I don't think there are any significant wholesale scheme changes based on whether New Orleans has Thomas or not.

The Saints have faith in receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Tre-Quan Smith, but both have to be more consistent for the them to keep on track without Thomas.

20man: I thought Green Bay really did a nice job protecting the deep halves of the field. They made Brees check down a lot in that game. New Orleans' offense is a big-play offense. The Saints had just two passing plays of 20-plus yards or more against Green Bay, and both came on short passes that turned into big plays by Kamara with his run-after-the-catch ability.

That, to me, is the recipe. Don't let the Saints' running game get traction early, and take away the deep part of the field. Make them drive and complete short passes and tackle in space. The last one is key there. It doesn't matter if Brees throws a 5-yard pass that turns into 50 yards. It's all the same on the stat sheet. Detroit's got to tackle well in space and limit the run after catch, which they've done a good job with up to this point.

20man: Good question. Hill certainly does factor into the game plan on defense, but also on special teams. Hill is dynamic on special teams, and Brayden Coombs and Co. need to know where he is.

But specifically on offense, he's tough and a good runner with the ball in his hands. He'll play some quarterback and receiver. Some of the stuff they do with him as a change-of-pace quarterback can challenge a defense. The Saints have done a good job mixing that concept into their offense.

"He's lined up all over the place," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said this week of Hill. "His knowledge of the offense is pretty extensive ... He's just a football player. It's fun to watch, when you're not playing him. We're trying to figure out what to do with him and where he's going to be and what alignments and how to stop him."

As you can see, Hill's definitely on Detroit's mind this week.

20man: You probably feel a little differently if Swift hangs onto that ball Week 1 and we're talking about a 2-1 Lions team here that Matthew Stafford has guided to two fourth-quarter wins.

But I agree, he can be more consistent, and I think we saw that a little bit more last week in Arizona. The two bad interceptions the first two games are what he had to eliminate and he did that against the Cardinals. He led them on the game-winning drive, the 29th of his career, and I thought he was pretty dialed in last week.

We saw what a difference having Kenny Golladay back was last week, and I'd expect Stafford to play more like he did in Arizona moving forward than the way he played against Chicago and Green Bay the first two weeks.

20man: I think Johnson is settling into his role as a complementary back to Peterson and someone the Lions really trust in the passing game, not just as a receiver, but as a pass blocker too. He's been really good in that role this year and played a huge factor in the win in Arizona last week with his protections and some of the other little stuff he did, like open up Jesse James on his short touchdown catch with nice rub route. He's the league's best blocking running back through the first three weeks.

I expect there to be some games moving forward where Johnson is more of a factor in the run game, but right now, the roles are kind of defined between Peterson, Johnson and Swift, and they'll stay with it as long as they're getting the desired production in that part of the offense.

20man: The Lions played a lot more zone in Arizona last week than they had the previous two weeks. It was roughly 44 percent zone a week ago vs. less than 20 percent the first two weeks.

I talked about that in this column last week about expecting them to play more zone against a quarterback like Kyler Murray, who will use his legs as a weapon just as easily as his arm. By playing more zone, it allowed Detroit's defenders to keep their eyes in the backfield more and and keep things in front of them.

The problem with playing too much zone against Brees is that we've seen his accuracy and experience being able to find the weak spots in zones and really exploit them. I think with a quarterback like Brees you have to have a good balance and mix it up to try to fool him, which is hard to do. Detroit still wants to keep things in front of them, but they don't have to worry about Brees the runner, so I suspect we see an uptick in man this week, trying to limit some of the windows Brees can throw into.

20man: T.J. Hockenson has at least four receptions and 50 receiving yards in each of Detroit's first three contests. We saw James get into the mix last week with a touchdown grab.

Like you mentioned, New Orleans has struggled defending the tight end this season. They've given up 29 catches for 200 yards and four touchdowns in three games to opposing tight ends.

I'd expect Hockenson, James and potentially Hunter Bryant, who returned to practice this week, to be a big part of the offense this week. This is a copycat league, and teams will exploit you until you prove you can stop it.

20man: It's always good to win ahead of the bye and feel good about yourself going into a week off.

Here's something I came across this week: Teams that start the season 1-3 have made the playoffs 14.3 percent of time and won their division just 8.1 percent of the time. A 2-2 start bumps those percentages to 36.9 to make the playoffs and 17.6 to win the division.

The four games coming out of the bye for Detroit are: At Jaguars (1-2), at Falcons (0-3), vs. Colts (2-1) and at Vikings (0-3).

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