Lions Week 14 Mailbag: What is the future at cornerback with Jerry Jacobs, Jeff Okudah?

Pride of Detroit

It’s time for another edition of the AskPOD Mailbag, where Jeremy Reisman and Erik Schlitt answer a handful of your questions about the Detroit Lions.

Let’s get started!

Finally, Goff seemed to be given some time in the pocket, something that has been missing all year. So after seeing him perform in a “normal” QB environment, what is your biggest knock on him? It seems at times he struggles going through progressions. Could that be related to his lack of talent/trust at WR? Or is it just a weakness? — ronleflorespeed

Jeremy: Well, I’m going to push back a little on your initial premise. Jared Goff has averaged 2.79 seconds to throw per NextGenStats, which is right around average for the league, maybe even a little longer than most quarterbacks get. His protection has been far from perfect this year, but I think he’s had opportunities all year, and the high sack numbers are at least partially his fault. PFF credits Goff with 19 pressures, the eighth-most among all NFL quarterbacks.

But you nailed the next part. Goff’s biggest issue is going through progressions and making the right read. If this problem was localized to this year, I would agree that it was maybe a lack of trust/talent at wide receiver. Unfortunately, this is the exact problem that Goff had in Los Angeles when he had talented receivers he trusted. In fact, I would argue that the problem was still there for much of the Vikings game. He just had one fantastic second quarter where that problem just disappeared. That’s what makes Goff’s game so frustrating at times. He’s physically capable of making big-time throws, he’s just not mentally capable of attempting them—at least not consistently.

Erik: My criticism for him resides in his eye discipline. Most of his issues show up because he needs to see the pass-catcher open before he is willing to throw the ball, which can have several negative impacts. This difficulty with anticipation is compounded by his strong desire not to turn the ball over. Often this combination causes him to move off his read too quickly and will result in a non-premium target or check down.

As Jeremy pointed out, we saw a lot of these issues go away in the second quarter against the Vikings, but that is starting to look like a unicorn, rather than a horse that the offense can ride.

Who wins Rookie of the Year for the Lions? – Lions fan in So Cal

Erik: I know it’s not sexy to pick the first-round pick for rookie of the year honors, but Sewell has been as advertised of late and is developing at a rapid pace. Look no further than Jeremy’s timeline to see those results:

Additionally, something we don’t talk enough about with Sewell playing right tackle is that there are some lethal pass rushers that right tackles face in the NFL (TJ Watt, Maxx Crosby, etc…). Just in the NFC North alone, the Lions’ right tackle will square off with Khalil Mack, Danielle Hunter, and Za’Darius Smith twice a year.

It’s not an easy path, but he is paving his way.

Jeremy: It’s undoubtedly Sewell, who not only did all the things you mentioned above, but did it while learning a different position all offseason, then switching back to left tackle at the last moment…. then switching back to right tackle a month ago. Oh, and the kid didn’t even play football last year.

Sewell’s rookie performance should already be considered top tier. But when you put all of it in its proper context—including the fact that he’s only 21 years old—what Sewell is doing this year is special.

Jeremy: This coaching staff undoubtedly loves Jerry Jacobs. That much was made abundantly clear by their decision to keep him as a starter even when third-round rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu returned from IR last week. Dan Campbell continues to praise Jacobs’ growth every week.

But it’s my understanding that they very much believe in Jeff Okudah still. Obviously, the Achilles injury will dictate their decision entirely, but if Okudah can rehab through the injury and be potentially ready, I still think this team views him as CB1.

I know a lot of fans have talked about moving Okudah to safety, where any lost explosion due to the injury would be masked. Are you in that camp, Erik?

Erik: First off, I’m with you that Okudah is a corner first in the Lions coaches’ minds, but Achillies’ injuries historically zap a player’s explosion and that would be a problem for him, as his game is highly dependent on that skill. So yes, if the explosion takes a hit, I’d be very comfortable with a move to safety.

Some of Okudah’s best traits—outside of explosion—translate very well to safety. He’s highly intelligent, reads the field with eye discipline, and is a technical tackler who is not afraid to throw his body into a tackle.

I see a high probability that the Lions win 2 more games. With that said, and considering both top edge rushers go 1 and 2, who would you pick at 3? — OldWolf00

Erik: It’s still early in the evaluation process for most draft analysts that cover NFL teams, but based on some general ideas I have for this upcoming draft class, there will likely be a drop-off after Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux.

From a talent perspective, after the two EDGE, there are a few highly talented offensive tackles—which the Lions won’t be in the market for that high—and two defensive backs who will likely draw their interest, but their positions are typically undervalued that high in the draft.

It’d be a tough sell to draft another corner at pick No. 3 overall but Derek Stingley is a rare player, who has been shutting down receivers since he stepped onto the LSU campus. With questions surrounding Okudah you can’t rule him out, but as we have seen with Jacobs and AJ Parker, this front office has an eye for finding corners.

Instead, I think the Lions would give serious consideration to the other defensive back in this equation, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. If you’re not familiar, please observe:

At nearly 6-foot-4, 220 pounds with elite range and a diverse skill set, Hamilton is easily one of the top players in this class. Really, the only problem is positional value, as a safety hasn’t been drafted in the first three picks in 30 years.

Jeremy: I’m probably in the crowd where it would be a tough sell for another defensive back at three, especially when I have high confidence in this coaching staff developing talent there. So I’m going to cheat here and say that if the Lions are outside the top two, we’re talking potential trade down territory. As Erik mentioned, there are a couple of offensive tackle prospects worthy of the pick, so I’m dangling the third overall pick to a needy team that wants their pick of the litter.

Jeremy: Personally, I don’t think the order matters all that much. If you get the opportunity to take a franchise quarterback and you don’t currently have one, you take him. If you don’t have a quality supporting cast around him, that’s fine. It will likely take a year or two for the quarterback to reach his potential anyways. If you do have a quality supporting cast, great! They can carry the team while you don’t overburden your quarterback in his rookie season.

The one thing I’d make sure of, though, is that you have at least a serviceable offensive line. You don’t want your rookie quarterback to get killed out there.

Erik: Yeah, I’m with ya. I don’t necessarily want to be locked into one option when it comes to the draft. Even if the timing isn’t right, there are only so many quarterbacks who can succeed in this league and if you think you have an opportunity to grab one, you do it.

That being said, I think in an ideal world you would have the team built first, then add the quarterback. That way you could maximize the number of seasons you have the quarterback on a competitive team with a lower salary contract, similar to what the Seattle Seahawks did with Russell Wilson.

If you could pick one person from the Lions to hope to be slam dunk future hall of famer … who is your choice? — Billy Sims Made Me Do It

Jeremy: Is it cheating to say Jared Goff? Because this question could really just be read as which position is most valuable to the team. It’s obviously quarterback, so if Jared Goff becomes a first-ballot Hall of Famer, that must mean good things for Detroit.

But if we’re talking realistic options, having a Hall of Fame offensive tackle for 10-15 years is awesome. That is obviously possible for a guy like Penei Sewell, who is already playing like a top-tier right tackle. A less realistic option I’m rooting for is Okudah, simply because that would make for one of the more inspirational stories in the NFL.

Erik: The way I initially read the question was which player on the current roster has the best chance to be a Hall-of-Famer, and I immediately thought of Sewell. But after reading Jeremy’s answer and re-reading the question, I see I read it too quickly. Here’s the thing though, I think I am still sticking with Sewell. As the first major brick in the foundation of the rebuild, if Sewell can reach that status, it raises the expectations bar for everyone.

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