Question One: How Impactful Are Matthew Stafford’s Injuries?
The Lions have been fairly vague regarding quarterback Matthew Staffords injuries. While it is expected that he will play this Sunday, there is legitamate concern over Stafford’s ability to overcome the ankle and quad injuries. The Lions need Matthew Stafford as healthy as possible going forward if they want to be able to compete against the Saints, Steelers, and Packers the upcoming weeks.
Caldwell said Matthew Stafford is sore, but gives no others details about his health. Wednesday is first practice report of the week.
— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) October 9, 2017
There is some cause for optimism regarding these injuries. It may not have been ideal to keep him in, but Stafford was still able to produce following the injury. He threw two touchdowns on the aforementioned leg, after throwing none and performing poorly all together beforehand.
However, some of that may have been a result of the offense switching Stafford’s strength in shotgun formations out of the hurry up offense towards the end of the game. This plays into the quarterbacks play-style better than the under center like frequently earlier in the game. Which could be the way the Lions use him as he battles with these recent injuries.
Question Two: How Did Jarrad Davis Look In His Return From Injury Last Week?
Lions fans should be incredibly happy that their rookie middle linebacker is back. Jarrad brings a level of energy and aggression to this defense that they really miss in his absence. He definitely still needs to work on his positioning in zone coverage. But even when he is out of position, he is able to recover well due to his speed and football intelligence. This should be something he is able to fix with more experience.
Where Davis’s impact was really felt was in the run game. Davis attacks downhill faster and more aggressively than any linebacker on the roster and it is not close. His angles still need improving, but he is already showing some growth in his first few games in his ability to shed blocks. His ability to diagnose quickly looked a little better this week as well.
The defense as a whole looked better against the run as a result. Jarrad’s penetration in the run game forced running backs away from their designed hole to run through and into the arms of his defensive lineman instead. His intensity and speed really help this defense in the run game and showed in this game the importance he brings to that side of the ball.
Question Three: Do You Think The Wide Receivers Will Look Better This Week Against The Saints?
I do believe they will. But, the Saints pass defense has not looked like the porous unit from recent years. Rookie cornerback Marcus Lattimore was been playing very well for a rookie so far this season. This is not overly surprising as he was one of the most talented players in this past years rookie class.
The Saints defensive unit is ranked 17th in passing yards and 10th in passing touchdowns through the first six games. Which is an improvement over the top ten ranked pass defense that prevented the Lions receivers from gaining separation in man coverage last week. The Saints also have utilized zone coverage more than the Panthers did against Detroit last Sunday.
This plays into the Lions receivers strengths better. They are really good at making defenders miss in space, which they typically have more freedom to do against zone than man. Lions receiver Golden Tate struggled to get open against man coverage last week. But, that has not really been an issue for him in his career like it has been for Marvin Jones, who struggled to get open through a majority of the game due to the Panthers tight man coverage.
However, Marvin Jones is a fluid route runner and does a good job finding the soft spots in zone coverage where he really excels. While the Saints unit has improved over its recent season in pass defense, I do see the receivers having their way against zone coverage in this game.