Every week, we answer some of your questions for a Detroit Lions mailbag. To ask a question for a future mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter, email me at email@example.com or ask away (and give a follow) on Facebook.
Now, on to your questions.
Should Lions fans be worried about Jarrad Davis? Any signs of improvement from him? How does he compare to other 2nd year linebackers in the NFL now, vs. for example Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, when they were in year 2 in the NFL? #LionsMailbag— Raymond Nuznoff (@rayray1222) September 6, 2018
Raymond, this is a fair question after Jarrad Davis again appeared to really struggle in coverage this preseason. I don’t know if “worry” is the right way to go, though. Davis is clearly a good NFL run stopper. He has great instincts, moves into backfields quickly and hits hard. In those ways, he has been better than last year. He’s also clearly a defensive leader even though he’s only in his second NFL season. That said, the Lions would benefit from trying to hide him a bit in pass coverage. That skill just hasn’t developed fully enough at this point. Not saying it won’t get there – but at this point the Lions need to focus on him being a plus-run defender and blitzing linebacker.
To the second part of your question, it’s probably unfair to compare him to Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher at this point in his career. He’s not there yet, although he has strong leadership characteristics similar to both on the field. Both Urlacher and Lewis had 100-plus tackles as rookies. Urlacher also had eight sacks and a couple interceptions. Lewis didn’t do much in either category – and other than the 2003 season never had more than three interceptions in a year. Davis had 65 tackles, two sacks and one interception in 2017. Not a bad rookie year, but this year will tell a lot about the trajectory Davis might be on. So it’s just too early to really make a full comparison.
Mr. Chow, this question takes on significance this week since the Lions are facing Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold in his first career start. So thanks to ESPN Stats & Information, we dug back into Patricia’s history as a coordinator in New England and found that, not surprisingly, he has been pretty successful. Based off my research, Patricia is 10-2 against rookie quarterbacks as a coordinator, with only Russell Wilson and Geno Smith beating him. The quarterback who had the best success against a Patricia defense was Wilson in 2012, when he completed 16 of 27 passes for 293 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 24-23 Seattle win. Opposing rookie quarterbacks have thrown 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions against a Patricia defense, potentially a good sign for Darius Slay, Glover Quin and the rest of Detroit’s secondary. Rookie quarterbacks have also been sacked 31 times against Patricia's New England defenses. The difference here is that it is also Patricia’s debut as a head coach, so there will be things he’ll be doing differently as well. But Patricia’s success against rookie quarterbacks should help the Lions on Monday night.
Diego H. from Texas writes via email: Hey, Mr. Rothstein, What do you think about the Lions on dropping DE Anthony Zettel? He started every game last year and performed really well. Why waive him, or why not trade him for at least a draft pick? Also, Bob Quinn has now departed from five players he drafted in 2016. All of them have been waived, none of them has been picked up by a team (53-man roster), and they were drafted in the fifth round or lower. Thoughts?
My general thought on the Lions releasing Zettel on Wednesday is a little bit of surprise with the understanding it was a definite possibility. Why? The surprise came from Detroit’s pass-rush issues in the past and the team’s apparent inability to really improve there in the offseason (we’ll see for real starting Monday). Zettel was a good pass-rusher for Detroit who had his moments last year when he had 6.5 sacks. That said, Zettel had a rough preseason, lowlighted by the fourth preseason game – where he played a lot and didn’t play particularly well. That signaled he might be more on the bubble than previously thought. Detroit kept him around, but the Lions clearly were hunting for what they believed was an upgrade at the position – and Patricia’s defense really needs people in Zettel’s spot to be strong against the run. As far as trading him for a pick, a team needs a willing partner to do so. They might not have had one.
As far as his draft picks, the 2016 class isn’t looking too great. Of 10 picks, the Lions have two clear starters in Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow. Miles Killebrew, the team’s fourth-round pick, essentially switched positions. Joe Dahl, a fifth-rounder, is a reserve lineman. And A'Shawn Robinson, an expected starter this year at defensive tackle, has been demoted and will have to fight for more snaps in a defensive line rotation. So, not great.