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!
At what point during the Cardinals game did you realize the Lions were going to turn in their most complete, 4 quarter game in years? I had to see Colt Mccoy until I was convinced. Who knew this was possible? I bet it surprised the coaches even. — HonolluluBlue8it
Erik: We’d seen the Lions have some pretty impressive single quarters before this game, so putting together a strong half was solid but not unexpected. At halftime, with the Lions up 17-0, I was still waiting for the bottom to drop out, and even turned to my left and said to Jeremy, “Matt Prater is going to kick a game-winning field goal to beat them 19-17, isn’t he?”
When Godwin Igwebuike fumbled, I was bracing for the Cardinals’ explosive offense to march down the field and score. But Amani Oruwariye’s insane interception, followed by a quick touchdown to Superback Jason Cabinda giving them a 24-3 lead, left me with all the feels.
Jeremy: I put up a poll at halftime to see what Lions fans thought would happen, and it was basically a 50/50 split between who was going to win that game.
(The end results were much more in Detroit’s because I think people flooded the polls after the game was over.)
I’ve seen enough of football to know that a two-score—and even sometimes a three-score— game is not safe in the fourth quarter. So I wasn’t convinced the Lions were going to win until very late. I think the moment I finally truly breathed a sigh of relief was when the Cardinals got a defensive pass interference penalty that kept Detroit’s drive alive with 4:30 left in the game. They would end up kicking a 45-yard field goal that pushed the score to 30-12 a few minutes later.
I do remember thinking to myself after three quarters, “No matter how this game ends, you have to be happy with the progress this team is showing.”
Had the Lions blown it in the fourth quarter would I have still felt that way? I’d like to think yes, but that’s typically not how it works.
Has Detroit seen enough of (Tim) Boyle and (David) Blough? Will they pursue a better backup QB or find a QB and make Goff our backup? — Long Time Lions fan
Jeremy: The quarterback situation remains the most captivating offseason decisions the Lions will make, and I don’t have a strong feeling one way or another. Personally, I’m not a fan of grabbing a QB with the Lions’ second first-round pick. If they love a guy, they should take them with the top pick. If they don’t love a guy enough in this draft class to take him in the top five, then I believe the focus should be on a competitive backup in free agency on a short-term deal.
The Lions have talked up Tim Boyle a lot this year, but he hasn’t produced on the field. This could be a big game for him against the Falcons if Jared Goff can’t find his way back off the COVID list.
Erik: I differ from Jeremy in the fact that I’m ok with taking a quarterback with the Rams pick, even if I agree with the point Jeremy makes about when to draft a quarterback philosophy. For me, I want all options on the table, and if they have a quarterback graded slightly lower than an EDGE rusher they take second overall, and then that quarterback falls to them with the Rams pick and he is the highest player on their board, then great, grab them.
As far as Boyle and Blough, I know they like them both, and because free agency comes before the draft, I could see them bring both back, but reduce the guaranteed money in their contracts. Then, if a quarterback does fall to them in the draft, they can move on from either without much regret.
How well is St. Brown doing compared to the rest of the WR rookie class? Outside of (Ja’Marr) Chase and (Jaylen) Waddle, he seems to be the best out of the group. — Alan Hemming on twitter
Erik: Ok, for fun, let’s look at St. Brown’s stats compared to every wide receiver drafted ahead of him, with those outproducing him highlighted in yellow:
So three of five receivers selected in the first round—all top-10 picks—are outproducing him, and Elijah Moore clips him on touchdowns. That’s it. Now, granted some of this production is based on opportunity, but St. Brown wasn’t the Lions’ top option to start the season, he has earned that role through hard work and consistency.
Jeremy: Plus he leads the rookie class in German words spoken in post-game press conferences. So that’s pretty neat.
He’s also one of the most productive Lions rookie receivers of all time. Take a look:
Roy Williams: 54 catches, 817 yards, 8 TDs
Calvin Johnson: 48 catches, 756 yards, 4 TDs
Earl McCulloch: 40 catches, 680 yards, 5 TDs
Gail Cogdill: 43 catches, 642 yards, 1 TD
Dorne Dibble: 30 catches, 613 yards, 6 TDs
Titus Young: 48 catches, 607 yards, 6 TDs
Amon-Ra St. Brown: 65 catches, 601 yards, 2 TDs
With three games to go (two if you want to normalize to a 16-game schedule), he has a great chance to jump into the top three in yardage.
Erik: Also, How about that Brad Holmes guy, huh?
My favorite part of the @Lions’ behind-the-scenes draft video:
Before Detroit selected Alim McNeill, Sheila Ford Hamp asked what we were all thinking — “Uhh, don’t you guys need a receiver?” — and Brad Holmes reassured her they still could target Amon-Ra St. Brown. pic.twitter.com/OMoZiV5fVm
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) June 14, 2021
Jeremy: Oh, you mean this guy?
Yeah, he still seems pretty excited about the St. Brown pick.
Erik: This past offseason, the best deal Reynolds could muster was a one-year, $1.75 million fully guaranteed contract with the Titans, and he only produced 10 catches for 90 yards in the five games he played. Since joining the Lions, also five games played, he has 16 receptions for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Like St. Brown, there was more opportunity for Reynolds to produce in Detroit, but this is closer to the statistical output we have seen from him in recent years—truthfully, even slightly better.
But when looking to the future for Reynolds, we should look to the past with Holmes. Last year, the Lions offered Tyrell Williams $2 million and Breshad Perriman $2.5 million. I’d expect Reynolds’ offer to be in that range.
Jeremy: I think he could potentially argue for a little bit more. Remember, last year’s receiver market was ridiculously low, and I’m sure the salary cap dip played a big part in that. If you look at the 2019 market—a much healthier market—guys like Danny Amendola and Michael Crabtree were getting between $3.25 and $4.5 million. I think Reynolds probably fits on the lower end of that range.
I am curious about Reynolds’ interest in coming back. He obviously was kind of forced into Detroit because of the waiver wire system, but the opportunity has actually been exactly what he’s been looking for: a chance to prove himself as a No. 1 receiver. I don’t know how much you can truly believe what a player says when they’re still under contract with the team, but Reynolds sure seemed open to sticking around next year when talking with Dan Miller earlier this week.
“I would love my future to be here with Detroit,” Reynolds said. “Man, being able to just kind of continue to grow with this team and help this organization win. I mean, it don’t get no better.”
Do you actually believe Reynolds or are you taking his words with a grain of salt at this point?
Erik: I think he wants a chance to contribute, so he can reinforce his value, and the Lions probably offer him the best opportunity to do that. Right now, he’s WR1 or 2 depending on how you view St. Brown, and even if the Lions target a true WR1 in free agency, Reynolds still has a chance to be among the top-three wide receiver options by the time free agency rolls around.
So, to recap, a one-year, $2-4 million offer seems appropriate.
What does a Ben Johnson offense look like? Have to believe this is still Anthony Lynn’s but they’re just calling things differently. What’s Johnson’s lineage? — Cold Pop on Twitter
Erik: If you missed Jeremy’s write-up on Johnson, the rising influence on Detroit’s offense, from earlier in the month, it’s worth your time. In there, Jeremy points out that Johnson’s coaching background is quite diverse:
Though he’s only 35 years old, this is Year 10 as an NFL coach for him. He was under Bill Lazor for two years in Miami, who brought a Chip Kelly style of offense that helps him collaborate with running backs coach Duce Staley (who helped run that system in Philadelphia). He spent another two years with Mike Sherman, who taught him West Coast Offense concepts. Adam Gase brought the Peyton Manning/Jim Bob Cooter-style into focus for him.
And since Johnson has been influencing the Lions’ passing game—including implementing the play Amon-Ra St. Brown scored on last week against the Cardinals—the Lions have opened things up more.
“From each guy, I’ve been able to pick something up, both good and bad, things I would like to emulate and things I wouldn’t,” Johnson said. “I think that’s really helped me in terms of expanding my mind, expanding some concepts, maybe, from the passing game, from that regard.”
Jeremy: Yeah, I don’t think the overall tenets of the offense have changed all that much. The Lions still want to run the ball a lot and have a physical nature on that side of the ball. I think Johnson’s overall influence on the offense has certainly increased a lot, but I’m not really sure he’s running things all that different.
I think part of the reason the offense looks so much more different is that everyone is settled in. You may remember earlier in the season, the Lions had some interesting looks, but they were also very mistake-prone on offense. So coaches talked about simplifying language, limiting the playbook, and just focusing on what they do well. Now, they’re doing more things well and expanding the playbook. So while I think Ben Johnson’s rise on the offense is a story worth telling—and I maintain he’s a prime candidate for offensive coordinator next year—I think Detroit’s improvement on offense goes well beyond his influence.
Jeremy: Little column A, little column B. When you’re picking that high, you definitely want to draft a high-value position, and I consider a pass rusher to be a top-three position.
But beyond that, I think an edge rusher is definitely still a need for Detroit. We can’t be entirely sure that Romeo Okwara will have his same explosiveness when he recovers from his Achilles injury. Trey Flowers is likely not long for this roster, and youngins Austin Bryant and Julian Okwara have yet to prove they’re ready for big roles.
Charles Harris is the one person I haven’t mentioned yet, and for good reason. I don’t know what happens this offseason with him. He’s playing like a starting-caliber player, he says he wants to come back, and the Lions may be able to convince him to stay for a relatively affordable deal, although obviously, he’ll get a raise from his one-year, $1.75 million deal this season.
But even if Detroit locks up Harris—who is only 26 years old—for a couple more years, I’m not sure he and 26-year-old Romeo Okwara are steady enough to say it’s no longer a need. Plus you can never have too many pass rushers. We’ve seen just how injury-prone the position is.
Erik: There are a few positions on the roster where you absolutely need a starting-caliber player capable of coming off the bench: Offensive tackle, corner, and EDGE. If you have three players capable of starting at each of those two spots, you can suffer an injury or deploy a rotation and keep going with little interruption.
As Jeremy mentioned at EDGE, there isn’t a player in that entire position group that won’t have a question mark next surrounding them this offseason. Will the Lions move on from Flowers? Can Romeo recover in time? Will Harris re-sign? Can Julian stay healthy and take another step in his development? Has Bryant maxed out his game?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice collection of talent, but it remains a position that is so valuable, that when you have an opportunity to add an elite player to it, you don’t pass it up.
If the Lions happen to “slip” enough in draft position they miss out on Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) or Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), I still think an EDGE could be in play with the Rams pick—David Ojabo (Michigan), Travon Walker (Georgia), George Karlaftis (Purdue), and Drake Jackson (USC), Jermaine Johnson (Florida State) are names to keep an eye on.