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!
Jeremy: I hate to be lukewarm take guy, but I don’t think there is a clear right or wrong answer here. Both have their clear benefits. Putting Sewell at right tackle now would, in my opinion, upgrade both tackle positions. Taylor Decker is better than Sewell is playing at left tackle, and Sewell is better than Matt Nelson, who is still learning the position. If you’re just trying to tally a win right now—and the Lions probably should be trying given the fragile nature of a winless team—then moving to the right makes sense for Sewell.
But if Sewell is the long-term plan at left tackle, then the sooner you can get him there the better. It’s clear at this point in his career he’s more comfortable on that side, so any work on the right could detract from that eventual progress. However, there’s no indication that the plan is to put Sewell on the left, and if they want him to stick on the right, then the sooner they can get him repping there, the better.
In other words, I’m cool either way. Probably doesn’t make for a good debate here, Erik. Sorry, I took debate class and hated it.
Erik: I do think Sewell will move to right tackle when Decker returns, and for this season, it makes sense. This team needs to be able to put the best team they can on the field and getting Decker back in at left tackle is the best way to facilitate that—because as Jeremy said, it upgrades two spots.
This coaching staff has a plan for how they want to develop Sewell, and all indications are the first stage of that plan was to play him at right tackle as a rookie. I expect them to go back to that original plan. I also don’t think playing him at right tackle will be as big of a setback as a lot of others do. He’s not going to unlearn how to play on the left side because he spent time on the right side. Right now, Sewell’s biggest obstacle isn’t which side of the line he plays on, it’s acclimating to the NFL level, which he can do on either side.
It’s hard to switch positions, much less trying to do it halfway through the season, and I believe that if they are going to eventually flop the pair, they’ll do it in the offseason.
If this season continues on this trajectory, who do you most want to see play who hasn’t played material amounts of snaps yet? Stenberg? Tom Kennedy? Jermar Jefferson? Someone on the practice squad? — critical perspective
Erik: This is an easy one for me and it’s Jermar Jefferson. I saw upside enough in training camp and the preseason to pique my interest and I think he is the most talented of the players who have not seen the field. Plus, from a personal standpoint, I really enjoy watching running back play, and he’s got some skills I’d like to see more of.
Jeremy: I want to see Packers honorary All-Preseason quarterback Tim Boyle finally reach his potential as future starting quarterback. Okay, not really.
I like the idea of getting Logan Stenberg some play. He showed some progress this offseason after Dan Campbell lit a bit of a fire underneath him. And if there’s one position on the offensive line that could still be in flux, it’s that right guard spot. That Halapoulivaati Vaitai contract is about to get a little unkind to the wallet, and if Stenberg even looks serviceable, the Lions may want to get out from underneath another bad contract via Bob Quinn.
Erik: Does Ifeatu Melifonwu count as an option because he was injured so early in the season?
Jeremy: If you want to win by technicality, sure. Melifonwu is a starter the second he makes it back from injury, and he’s also the most likely out of the group to provide some actual long-term production.
#AskPOD with uncertainty on Okudah’s future of being a reliable CB due to his big achilles injury, i know it is quite some ways from now but how much is it necessary to resign Oruwariye to a second contract when the time comes?— Ares (@LoadedAres) October 12, 2021
Jeremy: Oruwariye’s contract ends after the 2022 season, and I would say the jury is still out on him. I wouldn’t expect an extension in the upcoming offseason, as the Lions still need to figure out who can play for them and who cannot. Oruwariye has been the best Lions outside cornerback this year, but that’s simply because he isn’t showing the mental errors of the younger players.
Erik: Honestly, he’s probably been their best corner the past two years.
Jeremy: But Oruwariye needs to be better. He’s going up against No. 1 guys now and it’s clear he’s overmatched. This week against Cincinnati will be another tough test for him.
And there are a lot of young guys who will be gunning for the No. 1 or 2 jobs that are on the roster right now. We saw Ifeatu Melifonwu make significant progress before his injury, and you have to think his ceiling is probably higher than Oruwariye. Can Jerry Jacobs or Bobby Price take advantage of this playing time and potentially progress to starter-level once the early mental errors are gone?
Overall, I don’t think Oruwariye’s play warrants any immediate action, and I think the potential in their youth buys them some time.
However, I’ve been labeled an Oruwariye-hater in the past. Am I reading this wrong, Erik?
Erik: Credit to you for not really wavering on your stance on him for the past two seasons, but I do disagree with you on a few points.
I agree he has not always looked great going up against the opponent’s No. 1 receivers, but in all honesty, that’s never been his best role and he’s only had to do it because the corner expected to take on that role has either faltered (hello, Desmond Trufant) or been injured (an unfortunate hello to Jeff Okudah).
Oruwariye could be a terrific No. 2 corner in the NFL, but we haven’t seen him in that role because he has far too often been the last corner standing. That opportunity to slip into that No. 2 role may not happen anytime soon either, as there will be a lot of uncertainty at corner throughout the remainder of this season and into 2022.
Will Okudah return to form? Will Melifonwu step up his game? Even if both those answers are yes, I still think the Lions will make keeping him beyond 2022 priority. Keeping a third outside corner that is capable of stepping into a starting role is a massive need—as we are currently witnessing, again.
I also agree with Jeremy in thinking the extension probably isn't coming this offseason because there are unknowns with the other corners and Oruwariye will still be under contract. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions and Oruwariye’s agent begin preliminary talks, because, in my opinion, he is worth keeping around.
After Tre flowers being released by the Seahawks is there any way we could entice him as a 26-year-old veteran to climb on board? —halfandfour
Jeremy: First, to be clear. Flowers was waived, which means he’s subject to waivers before anyone can sign him. The Lions currently are second in waiver priority, only behind the similarly winless Jacksonville Jaguars. So if they want him, there’s a pretty good shot they can have them, and they won’t need to woo him to Detroit. So will they take a shot?
Maybe? I kinda doubt it. Look, every big name that hits the waiver wire is bound to drum up excitement from Lions fans given how thin the roster is, but I think everyone needs to cool their jets. This team made it clear from the beginning they were going to play their young players to see who is going to be a part of this rebuild and who will not. I don’t think they’re going to stray from that play.
I know Flowers is only 26, so the youth is still in play here, but this is a guy who has not been playing well, has already gotten benched, and indirectly blamed the coach’s scheme for his poor play. Doesn’t sound like a fit to me.
Erik: I do think the Lions might be interested in bringing him in, but it may not be for the reason most people think.
The Seahawks Cover-3 scheme isn’t for everyone and most corners that come from that scheme won’t translate well to the Lions scheme. But here’s the thing, Flowers wasn’t always a corner, in fact, he was a four-year starter at safety in college at Oklahoma State. The Seahawks drafted him and immediately switched him to corner because he was tall, long, and comfortable in zone coverage—which their scheme calls for.
If the Lions are indeed interested, it’s possible they view him in the same manner they view Daryl Worley, as a defensive back capable of playing multiple spots but works better at safety because he’s more comfortable in zone—which the Lions safeties play a lot of.
Bottom line for me, if you’re looking for him to play corner in the Lions scheme, I’d pass, but if you want him to convert back to safety, I’m interested to see what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn could do with him.
#AskPOD thoughts on Tracy Walker’s play thus far this year? And should the Lions try to extend his contract mid-season to save $$$ and award good play on our team?— arby’s stan (@jsakibomb) October 11, 2021
Seems to be the lone bright spot in an otherwise inept (and injury-riddled) secondary.@DetroitOnLion @erikschlitt
Erik: I wrote this week’s stock report, as Ryan enjoys his first week of marriage, and in case you missed it, Walker is playing very well. Through five weeks, among safeties who have played at least 20 percent of their team's defensive snaps, Walker is grading out as PFF’s No. 2 safety in the NFL, including being the third-best safety against the run and seventh-best safety against the pass.
This is the type of player we have been hoping to see for three years and his success is surely has a lot to do with how comfortable he is in this scheme and with this coaching staff.
I do think he would be receptive to an extension, and if he continues to ball out, I’d be in favor of making that extension happen at any time.
Jeremy: Yeah, Walker certainly got the coaching staff’s attention with his performance against the Vikings. I’m not jumping to extension talks quite yet, as I need to see a little more out of him before I would start shelling out money.
However, I will say if he continues to ball out, re-signing him should suddenly become a priority. The Lions are very much looking for answers in their secondary’s future, and if Walker can reach the ceiling we’ve all been waiting for—which I believe to be as high as a top-five safety in this league—it would go a long way to build this foundation. Walker is only 26, so his next contract will be him in his absolute prime.
Erik: I’ll have my tea ready.
How much damage does social media and or, Reporter’s articles do to a team and or, players that are still trying to get their feet under them? — 1951LION
Jeremy: I think this is an interesting question given the very negative attitude toward media these days. I know there’s a perception in this town that the media is overly negative and drives players out of town or “Lionizes” them.
I can only speak for myself, but above all things, I want to be honest. And if that means saying the team is bad when they’re bad, I’m going to do that. The one thing I have learned, however, is that you shouldn’t make it sound personal when you’re writing—and that goes for tweeting, too. Instead of saying something like, “Bobby Price doesn’t look like he knows how to play football,” I’ve learned to say things like “Bobby Price is really going through some struggles.” Diction, to me, is very important, and these players work too damn hard for me to disrespect them publicly like that. You can be critical without being insulting. This was something I had to learn, because on game days I’m as passionate as y’all, and this team can be really frustrating at times. But working alongside these guys every day brings a new perspective and level of respect for these guys. And, honestly, I should have had that level of respect to begin with.
And to bring it back to your question, the reason I’ve changed my perspective (outside of common decency) is because players do see these sorts of things. Not everybody, mind you. Some say they block out the outside noise, and they mean it. But there are also plenty of players who—based on their social media after a positive performance—are clearly seeing things written about them.
Now, it’s up to the coaching staff to do whatever they can to try and keep these players’ confidence high, and someone like defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has said multiple times that that is one of his primary jobs. I thought this quote from him a couple weeks ago was very interesting.
“Bobby (Price) is a strong-minded guy, and his background proves that. But I will say this, and I told him this, as a corner, you can have 64 good plays, and that 65th play might be a bad play, and that’s the one play they’re going to talk about. That’s just how it works. That’s how it works. Nobody is going to talk about the other plays that you did, so you might as well just build on those plays and forget about the bad play, because they’re not going to talk about (the good plays). That’s just the life of a corner, and he understands that.”
So to answer your question, I do think these players see—and are impacted—by negative comments about them. Hell, I can tell you the shit I take on social media can get to me sometimes. But, sadly, it’s part of the job, and those who can successfully block it out best will benefit most. You’ve got to be extremely mentally strong to play this game.
Erik: This is an unfortunate part of the business that I can tell you I wasn't prepared for when I started down this path. As a writer, we get a fair amount of praise and criticism for how we do our jobs, and social media has both helped and made the profession more difficult. For an NFL player, it’s likely tenfold.
I can honestly tell you as I progressed through my career, the amount of criticism I received grew along with my readers/followers. Over time, I have slowly acclimated to the increasing amount of negativity and learned to roll with most of it, but like Jeremy, there are times when it gets to me.
For an NFL player, I think it would be a similar situation. Little by little as they begin to get recognized, they get exposed to more criticism and hopefully they learn to deal with it. By the time they are at the NFL level, ideally, they would understand how to manage it, but occasionally there will be times it gets to them as well. They are human, and not just names on a fantasy football team or Madden game.