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Lions mailbag: How is Detroit’s wide receiver room going to shake out?

Jeremy and Erik are back answering your questions.

Detroit Lions Training Camp Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

So based on responses, it appears people like this Detroit Lions roundtable mailbag format, so we’re going to keep it going each week because WE GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.

Erik: Alright Jeremy, I’m going to let you pick the questions this week, so hit me with what ya got!

Jeremy: I think they should use that pick and the second first-round pick from the Rams to trade for Matthew Stafford.

Erik: Jeremy coming in hot.

Jeremy: Ask a snarky question, get a snarky answer.

Okay fine, here’s my real answer: The best player in the draft class.

Erik: If the Lions do end up with the top pick in the draft, history says the value is in selecting a quarterback or an EDGE rusher. The early leaders at EDGE rusher are Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon) and Drake Jackson (USC). At quarterback, it’s less clear but the early names to keep tabs on are Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), Sam Howell (North Carolina), and Malik Willis (Liberty). Stay tuned to POD as we will have a much larger article on the quarterbacks dropping sometime next week.

Jeremy: While I don’t particularly like talking about job security based on a hypothetical, let’s talk about Hank Fraley for a second. Sure, he wasn’t hand-selected by this coaching staff, but I think he fits in perfectly. He checks the former player box, the current players love him enough that Taylor Decker—who had his best season under Fraley last year—vouched for him to the front office.

If the offensive line and run game don’t get off the ground, it will undoubtedly be a disappointment. But unless it’s a complete disaster, I don’t see Fraley’s job will—or should—be in danger. There are several non-coaching reasons the offensive line may not get off the ground. Halapoulivaati Vaitai as a full-time guard is still a bit of a project. Penei Sewell is a rookie, and there’s no guarantee Jonah Jackson has “it.”

Unless the coaching staff already has someone in mind, I don’t see one disappointing season causing the coaching staff to scapegoat Fraley after one season.

Erik: I’m with Jeremy here, as a lot of his points make sense with Fraley fitting in with the staff and the players loving him. Frank Ragnow is arguably this team's best player and he raves about how valuable Fraley is for him having played center in the league before. After this front office invested big money in Ragnow this offseason, it’s clear he is a fixture in this organization, and his preferences will carry some weight.

Additionally, I think this staff is going to be given a lot of rope considering the players available to them in a rebuild retool. It’s hard to fault a chef who is working with groceries that were bought on a budget.

Jeremy: I picked this one just for you, Erik. I know how much you love special teams. Have at it.

Erik: You get me.

Right now I see three categories of players on special teams and they are being rotated just like offense and defense so that coaches can get looks at different players in different spots.

First, there are some spots that are very much representative of what we will see on special teams in the regular season, like Mike Ford and Bobby Price at gunner, as well as C.J. Moore as Jack Fox’s personal protector (PP) on punts. They will get some reps early in preseason games in preparation for a starting role in the regular season.

Second, there are also guys who are going to make the roster (like Derrick Barnes) but they haven't quite landed on their best role and will be moved around.

“We’re still in the mode of, ‘Get guys reps’”, coach Dan Campbell said at Wednesday’s press conference. “You may not be playing the position that you are best suited for right now because we don’t quite know that yet. We’re still trying to figure out the combination here.”

Then there is a third group of players on the bubble (like Tom Kennedy and Craig Reynolds) that are just getting chances to go out and prove their value so they can earn a spot somewhere.

“So, I think they’re still trying to figure out who’s the best lineup in these spots,” Campbell continued. “More than anything, let’s figure out what the individual can do and what he looks like, and then by process of elimination now we’ll know what our best lineup is. But look, you guys know this, you’ve been doing it long enough. Special teams is going to be a huge part of this selection process for us on the 53.”

Jeremy: I want to start with Nick Williams because I’ve seen a handful of people suggest cutting him in favor of a guy like Kevin Strong or Bruce Hector. While I get the philosophical reason for that, Williams is a leader in that locker room. Detroit has a lot of young players, and many have specifically mentioned Williams as someone who has helped him out.

The coaching staff also appears to like Williams a lot, as he has consistently been repping with the first-string defense in camp when healthy. And in the first few days of camp, he’s shown why. Is Nick Williams part of this team’s future? No. But does he have value as a mentor to Detroit’s young room? Absolutely. I think he’s absolutely safe.

Erik: Agree on Williams so, I’ll take the Perriman side of this question. I do think he is very firmly on the bubble, meaning how he performs against the Colts could go a long way in determining his roster status. Now, I don’t necessarily think age will factor in (Perriman is a month short of being 28 years old) but upside will, so if he shows he has more than say Tom Kennedy (Age 25) he’ll stick around.

But my goodness, he’s got to do something, right?

Jeremy: Perriman may be player 52 or 53 on my roster right now. To be frank, he hasn’t earned the spot. But his contract ($2 million guaranteed) and Detroit’s lack of outside receivers may just force the Lions’ hands. But if Perriman isn’t contributing in a meaningful manner, does he really add to Detroit’s outside receiver depth?

Overall, I think Perriman has to win his spot on Friday night, and if he doesn’t, he probably won’t make my final 53-man projection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions feel the same way.

Jeremy: I like this question because Anthony Lynn is probably the coach with the most skepticism around. He’s coming off a rough run with the Chargers and he only has one year as an offensive coordinator. He’s not nearly as fiery and loud as the other Lions coaches, but he’s got far more experience than just about everyone else.

I’m curious, did he made an impression on you during camp, Erik?

Erik: I’m not sure he made a strong impression on me positively or negatively during camp for a few reasons. I agree, he is more subdued than the other coaches, which can often leave him in the background during our observations. We also haven’t really seen what his offense can do. The starters have only played two series this entire preseason and the play-calling has been very vanilla—like most preseason offenses.

I think the real assessment will come in the regular season, but even then, it’s going to take some time to truly know how he is impacting the team.

As far as assessing the offensive progress being a function of his play-calling or personnel, we will have to see how he utilizes his players. Does he force the same play over and over hoping for a different result? Or does he find the mismatches in a given week and try and exploit them? If the bland play-calling continues, then it’s on him, but if he is being creative and the execution is falling short, we can point blame towards the players.

Jeremy: I will say, while I think this team may do most of its damage over the first 10-15 yards on the field—which I’m not thrilled about—I am intrigued by some of the motion/misdirection things we’ve seen in camp. With a roster full of speed, it’s the one thing that keeps me mildly optimistic about the offense.

Dan Campbell said his goal is to get one-on-ones in his favor. So if Lynn can do that with Detroit’s best weapons (see: T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift), then you can start getting excited.

Erik: The Lions’ bye is in Week 9 this year, this would be a good question to revisit then.

Jeremy: I could rave about him, but why don’t I Iet safety-turned-cornerback Bobby Price make my argument for me:

Erik: Yeah, I think we have stopped talking about him because we have all kind of accepted that he was making this team and we shifted our focus to the rookies and bubble players.

What do you like best about him, Jeremy?

Jeremy: Raymond is incredibly shifty, and while I think he’s best used in the slot, he’s one of the few players in camp that has proven he can provide some value on the outside, as well. Not to mention, his 4.3 speed really shows up on kick and punt returns, roles he’s appeared to have already won.

He’ll obviously contribute on special teams, but what do you think his ceiling is, Erik? Can he be a productive No. 2 receiver on the outside?

Erik: That may end up being the million-dollar question for this offense. If we’re being honest, he’s probably not the answer. But, at the same time, there might not be a better option. I’m to a point where I am expecting to see Williams and St. Brown as fixtures in their roles and a platoon of players—Raymond, Perriman (?), Quintez Cephus—split time in the final outside spot.

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