We decided to take a week off from the Midweek Mailbag podcast to bring you a version of the written mailbag. As always, you can send us questions via Twitter, preferably with the hashtag #AskPOD so that it doesn’t fall through the cracks throughout the week.
Let’s just jump right into your Detroit Lions questions:
Which rookie has the better of chance of winning their respective award? LaPorta for OROY or Branch for DROY?— Devon Musto (@DevonMusto) October 10, 2023
It’s Brian Branch and it’s not particularly close. While Sam LaPorta is on track to potentially set some rookie tight end records, Offensive Rookie of the Year almost always goes to a position that touches the ball more. In fact, a tight end has literally never won the award.
With guys like C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, Puka Nacua, Bijan Robinson, and De’Von Achane all off to impressive starts, LaPorta is still a huge longshot in my opinion. If you’re the gambling type, I wouldn’t waste my money on that bet.
The situation on the defensive side of the ball is far less clear. Jalen Carter is the early favorite, but if Branch can get back on the field and produce splash plays at the rate he did in his first four games, I think he has a legit shot.
We have been unusually well graded by PFF player wise but it still feels like they’ve underrated some players. Who have they graded too low in your opinions, and are there any grades that shocked you with how high they are?— Ashley David Soden (@sodenad) October 10, 2023
As always, PFF grades should be taken with a grain of salt, but it still is a bit shocking to see so many players rated highly.
Where it doesn’t quite match the eye test, however, is at linebacker. I’ve almost never seen eye-to-eye with PFF’s linebacker grades, and this year is no exception. I think Alex Anzalone (72.1) and Derrick Barnes (69.9) have been playing considerably better than their grades suggest.
I am definitely shocked by Graham Glasgow’s 83.3 overall grade. It’s not that he’s been playing poorly—he absolutely hasn’t. But that’s the second-best grade among all NFL guards right now. That has to be a good feeling for Glasgow, who struggled in Denver after a brutal ankle injury. Also, shoutout to Ifeatu Melifonwu, whose 75.2 PFF grade is fifth best on the team’s defense, giving Detroit confidence in their safety depth despite losing C.J. Gardner-Johnson long-term.
What ways has this team exceeded even your training camp expectations?— Lewis (@LeweyB) October 10, 2023
I had some pretty high expectations for this team this offseason. Even the way this defense has played thus far is not a surprise to me, as I posited this should be an average defense and could be a top-10 one. So, I’m actually not all that surprised by the defensive performance thus far.
I am probably a bit guilty, though, of expecting some offensive regression. I figured with a year of tape for opponents to study, things may not be as rosy for offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and quarterback Jared Goff. To be completely honest, I was still on the fence about a Goff extension going into this season. The play just hadn’t been consistent enough.
But Goff is playing his best football I’ve ever seen him play, and there’s now a big enough sample size for me to believe he can—and should—be the quarterback to build around going forward. Where he’s improved the most, in my opinion, is in the face of pressure. He’s rarely throwing off his back foot or taking unnecessary sacks. He’ll absorb hits to deliver a balanced and accurate throw.
Just look at his stats under pressure from last year compared to this year (via PFF):
2023: 57.1 comp. %, 6.65 Y/A, 326 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 74.0 passer rating
2022: 41.9 comp.%, 5.41 Y/A, 838 yards, 5 TDs, 4 INTs, 59.6 passer rating
That may not seem like much, but it’s making a world of difference.
What happened with Jonah’s extension? I feel they would have done it already. Do you think they are going to let him test out the market?— Lionsfan860 (@Welter06410) October 10, 2023
I’m as surprised as you all are that Jonah Jackson hasn’t been given an extension. Just take a look at what Dan Campbell was saying about him back during training camp:
“Hank (Fraley) the other day, I said, ‘Man, I love where Jonah’s at right now.’ I think he’s picked up where he left off at the end of last season and – because to me, he can get ever better too. I mean I think he has more room to grow, and I think Jonah believes that too, and so I see a guy who’s man, really coming into his own and it means something to him and I see there’s an intensity and urgency about him. So, I’ve been pleased, man.”
Brad Holmes said in September there has been an “open dialogue,” which suggests they’ve at least worked on it. Maybe it’s just a debate of the numbers.
I will say, though, that there’s really no urgency to get a deal done. I know a lot of people say that the earlier you get it done, the cheaper it will be, but that’s a faulty premise. Yes, the overall numbers will be cheaper, but compared to the percentage of the overall salary cap—which increases significantly each year—the price of extending a guard remains relatively steady year-to-year.
Are the Lions just taking their time with Jackson’s agents or are they looking ahead and prioritizing new deals for Amon-Ra St. Brown, Penei Sewell, and Jared Goff? It’s hard to tell right now.
Feels like it is time to lock up JG to an extension. How likely is this to happen mid season? Maybe the bye week?— rcj1s (@rcj1s) October 10, 2023
Holmes hasn’t really established a pattern or schedule with how he works with contract extensions yet. They’ve done mid-season extensions (Jack Fox), they’ve done training camp extensions a year before they’re due (Kalif Raymond), and they’ve done extensions just before free agency (Isaiah Buggs).
I suppose it would make sense to do it midseason before the Lions potentially make a deep playoff run, as that would only strengthen Goff’s case for high-end QB money. But with the way he’s playing right now, he may command it anyways.
I would guess they may want to sit down and take some serious time with a quarterback extension, which would likely mean an offseason deal, but a midseason drop would not surprise me either.
After the preseason and suspension discourse is it okay to feel encouraged by 9's game on Sunday though there werent a ton of stats and PFF did not like it?— Ryan (@DET_in_TOL) October 10, 2023
To be honest, I don’t think anything Jameson Williams did in his debut should move the needle in any direction. We already knew he was a willing and active blocker. Remember this play from last year?
And we already knew he’s had some serious struggles with drops.
I suppose you could want more out of your first-round pick in 28 offensive snaps, but the team made it clear he wasn’t going to be a huge part of the game plan yet. So, to me, Williams’ debut was a big shrug of the shoulders. A necessary step to getting him more involved in the offense and nothing more.
Should the Lions be in the market for a veteran CB (for depth) or another position via trade?— Jason Kroulik (@crowlick) October 10, 2023
Well, the Lions obviously thought so with the addition of Anthony Averett to the practice squad this week. The question is: is that it? If I had to guess, I’m thinking that is probably it. Detroit has never shied away from playing young and inexperienced players, so if the injuries continue to hit the secondary, I don’t think they’d hesitate to play Steven Gilmore or Khalil Dorsey. They believe in those players enough to have made their initial 53-man roster, so they’d at least give those guys a chance. And you may not like it, but they would absolutely play Will Harris at outside cornerback if they need to.
As for any other potential positions of need, I still think the team could stand to improve their interior defensive line and add a capable backup offensive tackle.
Overall, though, I’m not expecting a big splash at the deadline.