ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The NFL season is back -- the first preseason game was Thursday night -- and that means the Detroit Lions Mailbag has returned, too.
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Going into the season, which area of the team concerns you the most and which area concerns you the least (WR/TEs, LB, etc.)? #LionsMailbag— Shameek Mohile (@shamshammgod) August 2, 2017
That's a fair question to ask, Shameek, and although it is still very early in the process, it is one that's worth answering.
So let's start here with the position of least concern. That would be quarterback -- unless Matthew Stafford gets hurt. I'm saying it with that caveat because the reality is if almost any team in the NFL had its starting quarterback go down, expectations for that team would be completely altered. But as long as Stafford is upright and healthy, it's the position I'd be least worried about. Stafford understands the offense. He's comfortable in it and has started to get the nuance behind it. He also has a lot of options around him, from receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones to running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. The left tackle situation is concerning -- more about that in a bit -- but if the Lions can bandage enough over there to keep Stafford protected enough, I expect big things from the Detroit quarterback this season. The runner-up would be at safety, where the combination of Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson is a strong one and might be one of the most underrated duos in the league. The Lions also have Miles Killebrew, a potential future starter, at the position.
Left tackle is the biggest concern for me on the roster and it might not be close. Yes, the Lions have some pass-rush questions, but Brandon Copeland and Anthony Zettel showing some early growth at least slows that down until preseason games start. Plus, Ezekiel Ansah should be back at some point. Linebacker and tight end are also questions -- linebacker due to personnel and a rookie in the middle and tight end because of Eric Ebron's injury -- but those are fixable situations.
Left tackle, however, is a major issue. Starter Taylor Decker isn't coming back anytime soon. The main targets to replace him, Cyrus Kouandjio and Greg Robinson, are both coming off injuries. Kouandjio appears to have the early edge -- I'm basing that on him getting reps before Robinson -- but neither one has stood out early in camp in a good way. Zettel has handled both of them pretty easily in one-on-one drills during practice. Saturday's mock game at Ford Field should give the first small indication as to how either one would hold up in game settings. But right now, the Lions still can't feel very strong about what's going on over on Stafford's blind side. And considering Stafford's importance to the Lions season, that has to be worrisome for the Lions until they see some progress there.