When the opportunity to converse with insightful editors of other team-oriented sites arises, SeahawkFootball.com will take full advantage. As crazy as it might sound, fans of other NFL teams are just as passionate for their club as the 12s are for the Seahawks. In a new feature we'll call Speaking with the Enemy, we'll share three Questions and Answers with the editors from this week's opponent.
This week, we exchanged questions and answers with Mike Mady, a lead writer for LionsReport.com, Detroit's affiliate on the Scout network.
Here are my questions and his answers:
1. Statistics suggest that the Lions are running the ball so poorly in part because the team simply isn't giving its backs much opportunity. Is this a function of being down early limiting running attempts, too many backs in the rotation, a preference to keep the ball in the hands of Matthew Stafford and Detroit's receivers or something else?
Answer - when your running game is as abysmal as the Lions' there are a lot of places you can point. They do have the fewest rushing attempts (51), yards gained (135) and yards per carry (2.6) in the NFL after three games. Game flow has worked against them the last two weeks as they have fallen behind but it's not like the ground game was working in the early portions of the game. Every back on the team - Joique Bell, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick as the main ones - has struggled and that points to two common denominators - the offensive line and the design of the run itself. We could talk about the latter all day, so let's focus on the line. There has been awful execution with run blocking. The line is losing one-on-one matchups and running backs are being hit in the backfield. Even on the rushing touchdown scored last week, Bell had to lunge over the line to barely break the plane after contact was first made in the backfield. It hasn't helped that Brandon Pettigrew - the team's top blocking tight end - has been injured leaving Eric Ebron (mostly) and Tim Wright to operate as inline blockers more than they should.
2. The Seahawks received a jolt of energy when strong safety Kam Chancellor returned a week ago after a long holdout. Will the Lions receive a similar bump when injured outside linebacker DeAndre Levy returns? What's the latest on his recovery? Will he be on the field for Monday Night against the Seahawks?
Answer - Levy returned to practice for the first time - in a long time - on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, he was a limited participant. At 0-3, you have to think Levy will finally return to the field, although it remains to be seen if he will make it all the way back for Monday night. The Lions have responded to Levy's absence with a heavy dose of Josh Bynes, unexpectedly moving veteran Stephen Tulloch to more of a support role for the first time since coming to Detroit. Bynes has played well, and had a very strong performance against Denver on Sunday night. Still, Levy represents an upgrade over Bynes and is Detroit's best defender after the departure of Ndamukong Suh. He's quiet and isn't going to fire up the team with motivational speeches but will make the team better by simply being on the field.
3. Is there anything to Golden Tate's claim that Detroit's offense has become predictable and that opponents are calling out plays or is this simply a case of a competitive player being frustrated?
Although I think there is merit to what Tate was saying I think it was remarkably overblown. Tate - under no circumstances - meant his remarks to be disparaging and was more pointing out a need for improvement as a response to the question he was asked. He actually was surprised about the ensuing fallout and called his coach to clarify he had no ill will. The Lions haven't expressed much concern about the incident but - the truth is - teams are picking up on their tendencies (every team will have an understanding of their opponents tendencies on a weekly basis). It's formation, it's route combination, it's personnel. The Lions need to evaluate this. Example - Theo Riddick has played 59 snaps this year, 57 of them have come on passing plays. So what does that tell the opposition when he's on the field? Still, knowing what might be coming isn't even half the battle for a defense. It's a lot more work to stop a play. The problem for the Lions - to me - has been the design of the play itself. They do a poor job of getting their playmakers in space and often run routes that group players together on the field, enabling defenders to make plays. It doesn't help that the offensive line has given up 37 hurries, nine hits and five sacks in three games.
4. Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle struggled against Von Miller's speed in the loss to Denver but was this a case of his just being beaten by a Pro Bowler or has Waddle struggled all season long? Is he Detroit's "obvious" weak link up front or have other Lions' blockers struggled?
Waddle actually spent the offseason recovering from an Achilles injury and didn't get any game action until last week. What a matchup to experience in your first game back, eh? He didn't even start the game, as a matter of fact. Cornelius Lucas started and had been the team's starting right tackle until Waddle got in the game against Denver. Waddle was dismantled against the Broncos but Lucas had been one of the worst performing tackles in the league leading into that game. It's not like the other members of the line have been playing well, either. It's been a disastrous season up front and you have to wonder how an entire line could be performing that poorly. A coaching staff should be able to do a better job of masking some of the deficiencies in this area and that has not happened for the Lions.
5. For all of the talk that Detroit's offensive line has struggled in pass protection, the Seahawks have allowed twice as many sacks as the Lions through three games. Who are the pass rushers that Russell Wilson will have to worry about in this game? Is Ziggy Ansah living up to local expectations after being such a high pick?
Ansah has been Detroit's best defensive lineman thus far - and it hasn't been close, really. He's accounted for two sacks, two hurries and two hits. So he hasn't necessarily been a dominant force as much as he's been a solid performer. He plays the opened end of the line (meaning he won't be matching up against a tight end). He will pose a matchup problem against whatever tackle he plays against but the Lions defensive line - as a whole - is a shell of what it was last year. Also note that Ansah did leave the Lions Sunday night game against Denver and was held out of practice today with a groin injury.