Wed, 25 Nov 2020

Tim Twentyman

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: It's funny you ask that. I asked Colts head coach Frank Reich about Kenny Golladay this week, and I thought he gave a terrific answer.

"As a former quarterback and offensive coach we talk a lot about sometimes you have a receiver and as a quarterback you're standing back there in shotgun, you look out at your receiver, and in your mind what you say is, 'He's always going to be open,' and I think that's what a receiver like Kenny brings," Reich said.

I do think it's starting to rival the comfort level Matthew Stafford had throwing the ball up to Calvin Johnson, even when it appeared he was covered.

20man: This is a really good Indianapolis defense the Lions face Sunday, probably the best defense they've faced all season. Indy makes offenses earn everything they get, and they can wreck a game with their front seven.

Lions left tackle Taylor Decker is an X factor for me in this one. He's got a tough matchup this week with Justin Houston, the leader in sacks for the Colts on the year. Decker has to a do a good job in pass protection, but also open some holes on the edge if the Lions hope to utilize their run game against a Colts defense ranked second in overall defense, second against the pass and third against the run.

The Colts will want to get their run game going and try to slow down a Detroit pass rush that's been much better the last two weeks. The Lions have been able to stop the run the last two weeks, which is why their pass rush has been better, so the X factor for the Colts is going to be rookie running back Jonathan Taylor. Can the Lions bottle him up early and make Indy one dimensional on offense?

20man: Jeff Okudah been solid for a rookie that essentially has had learn on the fly because of no spring football, a shortened training camp and no preseason. He gets better every time I watch him.

I think facing the likes of Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones early this season has been a real positive for him. Those are three of the best in the business in the NFL at the receiver spot. Okudah said this week that facing those receivers has enhanced his game, and one thing he's really learned from playing against them is that his eye discipline has to better. That's something he's really working on.

As far as the statistics go, teams are completing 68.6 percent of their passes throwing Okudah's way for 350 yards with a passer rating of 89.0, per Pro Football Focus statistics. The key stat is that he has yet to allow a touchdown in his coverage this season. He's been fine, and will continue to get better.

20man: I think it's trending that way. D'Andre Swift's use in the passing game is a big factor in that as well. Adrian Peterson is still going to get early carries, and Detroit will never abandon their running-back-by committee approach completely, but the more plays the rookie makes, it's only natural to see his touches increase because he is such a dynamic playmaker.

20man: There's nothing head coach Matt Patricia and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin can throw at Rivers from a coverage standpoint Rivers hasn't seen in 17 years playing the position at a high level.

It's much easier to confuse a young quarterback with coverage, like the Lions did with Kyler Murray a few times Week 3, than it is a veteran like Rivers. When playing quarterbacks like Rivers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and those guys who've been doing it a long time, it's really hard to trick them into making mistakes. Against those guys it's really about being technique and fundamentally sound, because they know how to exploit it if you aren't.

20man: I think you can count the Arizona game as one where the Lions proved they can play well and beat a playoff-caliber team.

To be considered a playoff contending team, you have to beat good football teams along the way that are in the playoff conversation themselves. I put the Colts in that category.

Arizona was a good win for Detroit. Jacksonville and Atlanta, Detroit's other two victories on the year, are a combined 3-12. Detroit's three losses are to three teams currently in the playoffs in the NFC - Chicago (5-2), Green Bay (5-1) and New Orleans (4-2).

A win Sunday against a good Colts team sends the message that beating Arizona wasn't a fluke. A win Sunday also puts Detroit at 4-3 and very much in the playoff conversation in the NFC. It's fair to say that a loss Sunday raises questions about the team's ability to consistently beat good teams.

20man: Detroit's played more zone coverage the last two weeks than they've played in any other time this season, per ESPN Stats and Information. Detroit played about 60 percent zone in Jacksonville - though some of that was late game situation holding a big lead - and they played 50 percent zone last week.

The closest they'd come before that was playing roughly 45 percent zone in Arizona. Is there a correlation between the three games playing the most zone defense this year being Detroit's three victories? That's really something the coaching staff has to figure out.

I think playing more zone the last couple weeks has helped in the run defense. Detroit's secondary has been really good about coming up and playing the run. That's easier to do in zone.

Detroit's done a good job mixing up their coverages the last couple weeks. It certainly depends on the skill weapons and quarterback they're facing each week, and the personnel Detroit has available to them, but I would expect we continue to see them mixing up coverages and trying to keep offenses guessing both against the Colts this week and moving forward.

20man: The 2017 season.

Detroit beat the Packers (30-17) in Green Bay Week 9, came home to beat Cleveland (38-24) Week 10 and went on the road Week 11 and beat the Bears (27-24) in Chicago. Detroit also won three of their last four (not in a row) that year to end the season 9-7.

20man: The Lions knew when they drafted Stenberg there was going to have to be some development on the pass-pro side with the run-heavy scheme he came from playing for Kentucky.

The college game is so pass-happy nowadays that normally the adjustment for college offensive linemen coming into the pro game is with their run blocking and the techniques and fundamentals that go along with that part of the game. Stenberg has that portion down pretty well, where I thought he struggled a bit in training camp was with his pass sets and pass-blocking fundamentals. He struggled often in one-on-one drills with defenders. The good thing is, that's teachable, and Stenberg's coming along in that regard.

What isn't teachable is the physical brand Stenberg likes to play with and his nasty edge. As soon as his pass-blocking techniques become more reliable, we'll start to see him more, though that might not be until next year with the depth the Lions have upfront right now.

20man: Justin Coleman is still on IR, but he is back at practice, which is a good sign he's getting closer. I thought last week there was a chance of him playing this week. When asked about Coleman Thursday, Patricia said they're giving him reps and he's gotten better every week since injuring his hamstring Week 1.

I expect that he's close to coming back, but confirmation of that will be the team activating him to the 53-man roster. They have to do that first before he can play.

More New Orleans News

Access More

Sign up for New Orleans News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!