Who is to blame for Lions' poor run game, and can draft fix it?

Every Saturday, we take some of your questions for a weekly Detroit Lions Mailbag. To ask a question for a future Mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter or email michael.rothstein@espn.com.

On to this week's questions.

Brett, this one surprised me as well -- and I haven't been able to get an answer. It'll be on a list of questions for whenever expected head coach Matt Patricia is introduced as the Lions' next head coach. While it's a long list of queries, that's one of the coaching moves that has surprised me.

The simple reason -- again, this is just me speculating -- is Patricia had a guy he was comfortable with and wanted in the role. In George Godsey, Patricia has a guy who overlapped with him at New England from 2011-13, when Godsey was an offensive assistant and tight ends coach. Godsey also has familiarity with the Lions already since he was a defensive assistant with special projects last year. He also has quarterback experience, both as a player at Georgia Tech and as a coach at UCF (2005-08) and the Houston Texans (2014 as the quarterbacks coach, 2015-16 as offensive coordinator). It's not clear if Patricia had any relationship with Brian Callahan, and if Jim Bob Cooter ends up sticking around, there will be someone on the offensive staff Matthew Stafford has a high level of comfort with. For what it's worth, I think Callahan has a bright future as a coach in the league.

Raymond, I've gotten a combination of questions around the run game and Cooter all week. I picked this one because it's a little different. I wouldn't pin all of Detroit's run game issues on former offensive line coach Ron Prince, especially since Jeremiah Washburn also had issues getting the run game going when he was the team's OL coach the first two years with Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator.

Personally, I think it was a combination of scheme and injuries. The Lions had one starting offensive lineman play all 16 games last year, Graham Glasgow, and he did it in two spots, guard and center. So injuries played a part. So, too, did some of the playcalling and run predictability. Some, if not most, of that can fall on Cooter although Jim Caldwell's directives were probably part of it. There's also a question about the talent level in the backfield and whether Detroit had the right combination of backs. When the Lions chose to use their running backs was also part of the issue.

In other words, it was a large combination of things. That general manager Bob Quinn fired Prince -- and that he was the only coach let go the same day as Jim Caldwell -- should tell you he believed the offensive line coaching could have been better, and it should have been. If Cooter ends up being retained by Patricia, then I would be curious to hear Cooter's thoughts on run-game philosophy. Remember, it was Caldwell who set the run-game bar at "respectable." Not that the Lions ever were that under their former head coach.

Nate, this is an interesting question. Don Carey has been a stalwart on Detroit's special teams through two coaching staffs now and has 67 special-teams tackles since the start of the 2011 season -- tied for 10th in the league through that span. The bigger question for the Lions is, do they have enough of other players with high-level special-teams skill under contract who potentially offer more on the field (Miles Killebrew, Quandre Diggs and Steve Longa would be three names that jump out immediately)? Carey is an intriguing decision for me and I'll be curious to see how the Lions handle him. At 30, Carey is also a man with diverse interests, from helping the community to ministry to to writing and trying to inspire youth. He's an interesting guy to watch over the next couple of months.


David asks via email: Draft question. With all the prospects being mentioned & positions of need. Running back is a very big one as far as winning is concerned. Why hasn't the name Sony Michel been mentioned at any time during this process? Running back not only helps the offense. It helps keep the defense off the field so much. Winning teams know this. Why don't the Lions?


It's not that the Lions don't know this -- it's that they haven't been able to successfully have it since 2013, the last year under Jim Schwartz. Jim Caldwell's era with the Lions saw a consistently poor running game no matter who the back, linemen or offensive coordinator were. That's an issue and one Bob Quinn is attempting to rectify this offseason.

It's no secret running back is going to be one of Detroit's biggest needs. Quinn already said he's going to be adding at least one new face to the running-back room -- and I wouldn't be surprised if it is more than one depending how the draft and free agency play out. As to the name you mentioned, I like Georgia's Sony Michel a lot. He's a hard runner and explosive. He's had two 1,000-yard seasons for the Bulldogs and scored 16 touchdowns last year. More important, he averaged 7.9 yards per carry. Not sure he's a first-round pick, but if Michel is there when Detroit picks in the second round, he would be a guy I would consider for sure. The good thing for Detroit is it is a deep running-back class, so talent should be there on Day 2.