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Mailbag: Can Lions compete with Packers, Vikings in NFC North?

The Detroit Lions have two weeks of offseason workouts left before the players and coaches start their final pre-training camp break. So the NFL season, it is starting to creep up.

What does that mean? More questions from all of you about what could happen in the fall. We address some of those issues and more in this week’s Lions mailbag. To ask a question for the mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter, email me at michael.rothstein@espn.com or drop a note on my Facebook page.

Now, on to your questions.

@mikerothstein: When I did the predictions after the schedule release, I said 8-8 and I think eight wins is still a reasonable number. I haven't seen anything yet to move me off of that in a positive direction. I think Detroit has a shot, sure, considering a fairly favorable schedule (only one potential cold-weather game) but it's still too early to really give a true gauge there. I'll have a better feel in August, but I don't know how much higher or lower I'd be going than the 7-to-9 win range.

@mikerothstein: It's a fair question for sure, and I'm hesitant to give a number without seeing Ameer Abdullah returning healthy. I also want to get a better idea of how the franchise plans on using Stevan Ridley with my own eyes. That said, the general answer is more -- potentially a lot more. The Lions have been trying to build the mythical balanced attack for years now, and have put significant resources into the offensive line and running backs the past two seasons -- including two first-round picks (Taylor Decker and Laken Tomlinson) along with Abdullah, Graham Glasgow, Joe Dahl and fullback Michael Burton. If the Lions struggle running the ball like they did last season, it will be a long season.

@mikerothstein: You've read right. Decker has worked at left tackle and Riley Reiff has been at right tackle. Though this might not seem like a big deal during unpadded workouts, here's why it is: Jim Caldwell has historically brought rookies along slowly. Last season at this time, most rookies were not even working with the No. 1 offense and defense regularly -- let alone at a premier position like left tackle. That bodes well for Decker's future, and gives a glimpse into how the Lions are going to view him here.


Jason from Parts Unknown writes: Are the Lions keeping Tulloch around due to a desperate hope that Calvin Johnson is going to unretire and they want a high-money player to be able to cut?

Michael Rothstein: Nah, can’t see that being the case for a few reasons. Keeping or cutting Stephen Tulloch at this point has no bearing on the money he would free up since the $6 million the Lions would pick up against the cap would remain the same for now. The Lions and Tulloch’s camp have both been pretty cagey on what’s going on here, and others have been quiet about what’s going on when I’ve tried to ferret out information. But I don’t believe Tulloch’s situation has anything to do with Calvin Johnson -- and no, I would not expect Calvin Johnson to come out of retirement.


Walter from Gaffney, South Carolina writes: How are the wide receivers shaping up, particularly Quinshad Davis?

Rothstein: It’s too early to really say since the Lions have yet to have a full complement of receivers during organized team activities (Golden Tate missed last week and TJ Jones, Corey Fuller and Jeremy Kerley missed this week). What I’ve seen from Davis, I’ve liked so far. He has a big body and had an impressive catch during the open OTA on Thursday. But it’s early yet. Guys like Davis and Jay Lee are still learning the offense, hitting isn’t happening and players aren’t wearing pads. But Davis will have a shot to make an impression and compete for a roster spot during training camp. I think he’ll have a shot.


Denzera from Parts Unknown asks: Can the Lions compete with the Packers, and how far are they from being a contender in the NFC North?

Rothstein: Compete with the Packers? Sure. The Lions split with them almost every year and were a Hail Mary away from sweeping Green Bay for the first time since 1991. I believe the Packers and Vikings are both ahead of Detroit at this point, but it’s June, so it’s tough to get a true gauge on it. But no reason to think Detroit can’t compete with Green Bay. Being a contender in the NFC North? It’s possible, particularly because the schedule should shape up nicely for Detroit, but as I mentioned, I believe the Packers and Vikings have more talent than the Lions, and talent rules (other than when injuries happen).