The Detroit Lions Questions – Answers are Coming

by Barroom Staff | June 22, 2016 7:12 am

Nick Kostora (@nickkostora) is the co-host of the popular Detroit Lions Radio podcas[1]t. The NFCN Barroom and Lions Barroom is proud to promote their weekly show. In addition to talking Lions football with his co-host Brandon Alisoglu (@BrandonAlisoglu), Nick writes a weekly column for the Barroom. This week he shares some of the Detroit Lions questions fans are asking and assures us that answers are coming.

At this point in the offseason, with organized team activities (OTAs) in the rear-view mirror, and training camp not quite on the horizon, fans have many more questions than answers about the upcoming campaign.

The Detroit Lions are set to be an enigma that would make The Riddler proud. Predictions are all over the board. Some believe this team is much improved and will compete for playoff positioning and a potential division crown. Others, however, feel the loss of Calvin Johnson begins an inevitable downward spiral.

Without attempting to make use of a crystal ball or read into any tea leaves, let’s see which questions we will have legitimate answers to once Week 1 of the regular season starts. Maybe then we can start making educated guesses as to how the team will fare this year.

Detroit Lions Questions –  #1: Is Taylor Decker the best option at left tackle?

Drafting an offensive tackle in the first round is typically a clear indicator that a team believes they have a blindside protector for the next decade. Ohio State’s Taylor Decker looks to be just that. He already saw most of the OTA reps at left tackle, with veteran Riley Reiff moving to right tackle.

It’s unknown if Reiff will continue to wear Honolulu Blue and Silver past 2016, so it makes sense for Decker to become the lynchpin of the offensive line sooner rather than later. Whether or not he is actually the best option at the position is an intriguing question.

Reiff has followed the “good but not great” blueprint for years. Detroit could do much worse than the Iowa product, but he is never going to be an All-Pro either. Decker has to learn all the signals and protection calls at the pro level, and have the skills to defend against opposing team’s best edge rushers at all times.

We won’t see Decker’s peak abilities before the season starts, but we will know if he is ready for the left tackle position. Reiff hasn’t set the highest bar. Getting as many reps as possible in OTAs, training camp, and the preseason is a great way to let Decker wade in the shallow end of the pool before diving into the deep end come September.

Detroit Lions Questions – #2: What does this team want to do at running back?

The Lions have been plenty busy at the running back position in this offseason. I detailed the current state of the backfield here[2], but the important thing to note is that Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, Stevan Ridley, and Zach Zenner all look to have a legitimate shot at earning touches once game action commences.

Abdullah has the most potential of the bunch, with the type of quick-twitch abilities and breakaway speed that forces defensive coordinators to adjust gameplans. He needs to cut down on turnovers, something easier said in a June article than done on the field, but many running backs have remedied similar issues in the past, and Abdullah is only entering his second year of pro action.

Throughout training camp and the preseason we will find out if the Lions are actively looking to get Abdullah some of the touches that went to Theo Riddick last season. Not that Riddick is eager to relinquish his role. He was arguably the most consistent player in Detroit’s offense a season ago.

As for the “between the tackles” carries, with Joique Bell out of the picture Zenner and Ridley will both fight for that role. Is Ridley healthy enough to resume his workload from New England two years ago? Is Zenner just a fan favorite with limited upside, or a player finding his stride at the pro level?

Four weeks of preseason action should help sort out the current group on the depth chart.

Detroit Lions Questions – #3: Who will start at linebacker?

DeAndre Levy is finally ready to return to action. It almost feels weird to say, or to type, because he has been out of action for so long now. His hip is healthy and he is going through drills with teammates. So, who will start alongside him this season? Will Kyle Van Noy continue seeing first team reps once training camp begins and the preseason rolls around?

The former second-round selection has shown flashes to this point in his career, but injuries and a slow adjustment to the professional game have left the “potential” tag hanging over his head indefinitely. That looks to change this year, but we will need to see him make plays in the preseason in order to believe it for certain.

Tahir Whitehead looks to have a secured place on the field as well, which means that only one real linebacking question remains…

Detroit Lions Questions – # 4: What is going on with Stephen Tulloch?

A decision has to be made at some point, because this saga needs to end, and it needs to end before the season starts. Tulloch looked incompetent against the pass last season, unable to run alongside wide receivers or tight ends with any discernible speed over the middle of the field. He was decent in run support, but only on inside run plays. Tulloch is simply too slow at this point in his career to keep up with players around him on a consistent basis. When on the field, offensive coordinators target him.

The Lions, true to their nature, have remained quiet on what exactly the situation is with Tulloch and why he is still on the roster.

We may not have an answer tomorrow, or even in the next few weeks, but Detroit will have to determine Tulloch’s fate before the regular season starts.


For a satirical look at why the Detroit Lions could make the playoffs this season… click the following link. Notice: some of the language is NSFW.

What We Know, Don’t Know & Need to Know About The Detroit Lions[3]

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