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Detroit Lions mailbag, Part 2: Will Derrick Barnes earn a starting role in 2021?

Part 2 of this week’s mailbag focuses on questions about the season as a whole.

Indianapolis Colts vs Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

While Part 1 of our POD Mailbag this week focused on questions leading up to this weekend’s game, Part 2 will focus on a few broader topics that revolve around the season as a whole. As always, Jeremy Reisman and I will be answering your Detroit Lions questions, so let’s get started.

Do you think at some point in the season Barnes is going to dethrone either Anzalone or Collins and become a full-time starter? If yes what week do you think it could occur? — Usmarine0341

Jeremy: I think it’s very possible he dethrones Alex Anzalone in his rookie season for two reasons. One, Anzalone has never been a starter for a full season. Last year, he began the season as the starter, but was replaced by Week 10.

The other reason is that you just can’t keep a playmaker off the field, especially when the best thing for young players is playing time. Don’t take it from me, take it from defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.

“If you’re a good player, I’ll find a way to put you on the field. Simple as that. He’s a good player, so we’ll find a way.”

That’s him talking directly about Barnes. His time is coming, and it could be soon.

Erik: I was totally with you Jeremy... until they named Anzalone a team captain, said he would be wearing the green dot helmet and would be relaying the defensive play calls. Now I’m not so sure.

At the end of the day, I still think talent wins out and Barnes appears headed for a larger role, but if he is going to overtake Anzalone, I’d be surprised if it happened before Thanksgiving.

Erik: 100 percent.

Not only are the pair extremely talented, but they also have two of the best secondary coaches in the NFL, Aubrey Pleasant (secondary coach) and Aaron Glenn (defensive coordinator), helping them along the way.

Additionally, I’m not sure I saw any single player outwork either guy during the down periods of training camp. Every break, Walker and Okudah were either in a coach's ear, running one-on-one drills, or operating the video board, trying to figure out where they could improve. They simply did not rest and were constantly on the lookout for ways to elevate their games.

Jeremy: I’m a bit more skeptical on Walker than I am Okudah. And I also think it’s important to remember that progression doesn’t happen overnight. We already saw some mistakes in that Pittsburgh preseason game from both players, and those aren’t just going to magically go away when the games matter.

That being said, I’m not going to count either out. They’re both playing with a lot of confidence right now, and they’ve both got tremendous work ethics. Through in a coaching staff with a fantastic resume of developing young talent, and I think Okudah is in for a big year. Hopefully, Walker will follow.

Oh, and (hopefully) having a pass rush will help both.

What player on our roster is most likely to be traded for draft assets? — Woogoat

Jeremy: The first place to look is at players on the last year of their contract. This year, there’s a lot of them. So instead of listing them all, here are some that I think may have some trade value:

  • Nick Williams
  • Tracy Walker
  • Da’Shawn Hand
  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin
  • Darren Fells
  • Kevin Strong

Any players out there jump out at you? Anybody that I missed?

Erik: Earlier in the offseason on one of our Spotify Greenroom podcasts, Ryan Mathews made the case that Tyrell Williams could also be vulnerable if the Lions were clearly no longer competitive. So we could probably add him to the list as well.

Jeremy: It’s worth pointing out that I don’t think any of these players could fetch more than a fifth-round pick, with Walker really being the only one who could possibly draw that much. And that’s only if he balls out in the first half of the season. Otherwise, you’re talking about a lot of older players who are not game-changers. In other words, I don’t expect much movement from the Lions this trade deadline.

Erik: Same.

Erik: Honestly, not high at the moment, which shouldn’t be surprising considering he is currently on injured reserve. The tough part about Hand is that it hasn’t been the same injury over and over, but instead a variety of injuries that suggest there will always be somewhere on his body that can get injured.

Now, if he does buck the injury trend, I do absolutely believe he will play a significant role on defense and his positional range makes him a valuable asset. But that’s a big if.

Can you talk me off the ledge on Hand, Jeremy?

Jeremy: I’m afraid I can’t do that, Erik.

Erik: Welp.

Jeremy: Hand, through no fault of his own, is in a situation where he now has a 14-game audition, at best, to stick around in Detroit. In the small window of camp that he actually practiced, he did look pretty damn good and explosive. Plus, he’s playing at a weight that makes him much more dangerous than the “skinny” 270 he was playing at under Matt Patricia.

But the dude has to make it on the field, and how can anyone have confidence that he can go the last three months of the season without encountering another setback? It’s a huge bummer because this guy is brimming with potential, but if I had to put a percentage on it, I would say there’s an 85 percent chance we’re seeing the last few months of Hand in Detroit.

Everybody seems to assume that we’re drafting a QB next year. Erik’s on QB draft watch, etc. But suppose Goff stinks it up and Holmes doesn’t like any of the QB prospects enough to draft one. What are our trade/FA options for addressing QB next year? — elgarraz

Jeremy: Trade options are hard to project a year ahead of time, but here’s a look at some of the quarterbacks that are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, Joe Flacco, Mitchell Trubisky. In other words, more stopgaps.

Erik: Yuck.

Jeremy: Personally, I think the Lions stick with Jared Goff no matter what happens this year. To cut him, incur $30.5 million in dead cap only to sign another stopgap free agent makes little sense to me. So if Goff sucks, you have two options: draft a quarterback in 2022 and either start him or ease him in. Or deal with another year of sucky Goff and draft a quarterback in 2023. There simply aren’t enough good free agent options, and I don’t think the team will be in a spot where they should consider spending draft picks on a blockbuster trade. I guess you could fantasize about snatching Russell Wilson from the Seahawks, but Wilson has a no-trade clause and I don’t think he’d be too excited about landing in Detroit.

Erik: Yeah, I’m in lockstep with Jeremy’s conclusion that regardless of Goff’s play in 2021, he’s a Lion in 2022 for better or worse. Then the question becomes when to draft a QB, which is why I decided to start doing a 2022 quarterback watch list. My gut feeling all along is that the plan has always been to turn to the draft to draft the franchise’s next signal-caller, it’s just a matter of when that happens.

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