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Mailbag: Can Golden Tate return to 2014 form for Lions?

It is finally here, the last week of offseason workouts. The Detroit Lions' program ends with a three-day mandatory minicamp this week and then the Lions get one more long break before the start of training camp and the true start to preparations for the 2016 season.

It doesn’t mean there aren't a ton of questions, because there are. OTAs have given some small answers to what you might see from the Lions this fall. What are those? Those come in the answers below.

To ask a question for the mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter, email me at michael.rothstein@espn.com or on my Facebook page.

Now, on to your questions.

@mikerothstein: It was somewhat surprising to see that happen, but I think that was a combination of the draft having some strong depth at defensive tackle and the typical need at other positions (quarterback, receiver, offensive tackle) that forced some teams to look away from tackles. I will caution you to take the mostly positive reviews of A’Shawn Robinson with the appropriate grain of salt, though, considering there are no pads or hitting at offseason workouts. He’s looked good so far and that he’s gotten some work with the No. 1 unit (although that’s in part due to injuries to Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid) is telling. The Lions are expecting big things from him eventually. Figure he’ll be in the rotation this fall and getting more snaps as the season progresses.

@mikerothstein: We won’t know this answer for sure until training camp starts because running back is a position where padding and hitting is remarkably important. That said, Zach Zenner has to have the early edge mostly because he’s been out there practicing while Stevan Ridley has sat out the offseason workouts for the most part. Dwayne Washington might end up in this conversation as well and as a seventh-round pick could have an edge for winning a role as well. In his first practice this week, he showed some burst and strength, although he struggled at points, too. If I were handicapping it now, I’d say the Lions running backs would be Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Ridley and Zenner -- but those last two spots are up for grabs.

Russ from Brookville, Pa., asks: Golden Tate put up impressive numbers with Calvin Johnson out of the lineup for a stretch two seasons ago. Do you expect him to continue that trend with Calvin retired or is this finally the year the Lions go with a truly balanced and spread attack on offense?

Rothstein: Russ, I think there’s a chance both could happen. Tate is expected to be either the No. 1 or No. 2 target for Matthew Stafford in 2016 along with Marvin Jones. Tate will likely see more targets than he has in the past. The stretch you are talking about included two games with over 150 yards receiving, including a 10-catch, 154-yard performance that was among the best of Tate’s career. Tate’s ability as a receiver who can turn short and intermediate passes into big gains by forcing defenders to miss tackles will continue to be valuable for Detroit. Can he replicate his 2014 season? Possibly -- and the Lions need it to happen for offensive success this season.

Kaprio from Facebook asks: Do you know if Alex Carter is going to be back in the rotation this year on the cornerback depth chart? He has potential and a ton of upside but last year we didn’t even get to see him for a snap due to injury.

Rothstein: Carter is expected to be in the rotation this fall. While Nevin Lawson likely ends up being the starter on the outside opposite Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs mans the nickel, he’s going to be part of the roster and the likely No. 4 corner. He still has a bunch to learn but he’s coming along pretty well so far, even garnering first-team reps during OTAs. He has the size, speed, intelligence and instincts Teryl Austin and Jim Caldwell want in a cornerback. Where he fits in this season remains to be seen but the potential is there for him to be a player down the road.

Jack from Facebook asks: After his success as a nickel cornerback as a rookie, and given Detroit’s lack of depth at the position after Slay, is there a chance Quandre Diggs starts on the outside this season? Or do you see him staying in the slot long term?

Rothstein: The short answer is Diggs seems to be Detroit’s long-term answer at the slot. The Lions are hoping Nevin Lawson can continue to improve as a starter or that Alex Carter can show enough progress to become a reliable option across from Slay. Diggs is a tough player who fits perfectly in the role in the slot. His height would be a bit of a concern on the outside, but his instincts fit perfectly for what this defense wants out of a slot corner. So I anticipate seeing him staying inside for now.