The New York Giants face a team Sunday in the Detroit Lions that is a mirror image of them in many ways. Both are 9-4, both started the season slowly and have been hot, both are teams that do not have tremendous offenses.
To learn more about the Lions, this week’s “Five Questions” segment features Chris Lemieux of SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit.
Ed: Is this the best you have ever seen Matthew Stafford play? If so, what has been the key to it?
Chris: Probably the best I've seen him play. I admit my memory of 2011 is a bit fuzzy now but while that Stafford was delivering some ridiculously gaudy numbers, 2016's seen a rather entertaining form of the man, not to mention the accuracy and force of the passes he throws. Not only that, he's removed many of the mistakes that plagued him earlier on, and outside of playing the Chicago Bears he's been very mistake-free, in touch with the offensive system and can put a ball through windows that shouldn't even exist. The injury, however, could change things around quite a bit. We'll have to see as no one seems certain about the severity of it all.
But I couldn't tell you what his evolution is. Lot of guys might point to Jim Bob Cooter, or maybe Stafford's natural evolution as a quarterback. Personally, I believe Stafford's improved play to be the direct result of an abnormally large amount of T he has suddenly gained. This is even more curious because he's having twins, which may indicate that we are dealing with an extraterrestrial blessing of T, which I am confident does not violate any league mandates not written on Roger Goodell's Glorious Napkin. I'm open for suggestions and revelations, but it's honestly stumping our best and brightest.
Ed: It is hard to believe Ziggy Ansah has no sacks. I know he had an ankle injury. Is he healthy now, and are you anticipating a breakout from him at some point?
Chris: Ziggy's been the recipient of a lot of bad luck and the instincts of quarterbacks wisely dumping the ball off to the dirt when they see his face. He's been a step or two away from a sack before a quarterback will throw it out of bounds, so while he's done everything to get right up there he's just been denied the little mark in the box score.
There's also the notion that the Lions pass rush isn't that great overall, to be honest. As a unit the defensive line has been struggling with providing pressure, getting into the backfield, that whole mess. Defending the pass has been more on the secondary. So while Ansah's been playing out of his mind, he's also taking quite a bit of pressure because there's not that much to worry about from the other edge.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants' roster and put him in the Lions' starting lineup who would it be? why?
Chris: Tempting as it is to take Olivier Vernon to resolve some of the aforementioned woeful pass rush, the offensive line for the Lions is hanging on a thread when it comes to depth. If starting center Travis Swanson remains out with his brain injury, it means Graham Glasgow takes over from his standard position at guard and puts in Laken Tomlinson, and then the whole thing just goes to hell. So on that particular tangent, I'd probably end up grabbing Justin Pugh, even though I am a formal dunderheaded idiot when it comes to understanding offensive line play. I don't get it at all. I can't evaluate the talent. But they tell me Pugh is good so I'll just smile, nod and say he's probably the man for the gig there, jack-o.
Ed: Who are some of the young players on the Lions we might not know much about, but that we should pay attention to on Sunday?
Chris: While there's certainly no reason for it, Dwayne Washington is a key contributor to the running game, what little there is, for Detroit. This is especially evident if Theo Riddick will continue to remain limited for the near future. Without Abdullah the ground game has gotten severely hamstrung, more than usual. Washington is, at least, competent, so that makes him remarkable for the Lions I suppose.
On the defense, A'Shawn Robinson and Miles Killebrew are both names to keep eyes out for. A'Shawn is a Very Large Boy and has a penchant for swallowing running backs whole and getting sweaty, meaty paws to bat at footballs. Killebrew, who has an extremely good name and was runner-up in our Pride Of Detroit 2016 Name Tournament, has been a force on third down and is fairly flexible in the backfield. Also his name is pretty good, did I mention that?
Ed: You are game planning FOR THE GIANTS against the Lions? How do you attack Detroit, both offensively and defensively?
Chris: First, I would probably attack the middle of the field when on offense. The linebacking unit for the Lions is on very shaky terms and this is where the meat of their problems lie. Tight end, slot receiver, halfback, y'all can throw for about five yards at a time on the Lions all day if that's what was wanted. Such a situation also keeps the offense off the field and generally busts them up when it comes to possession.
Second, obviously, pressure up front on Stafford. This is even more key if Travis Swanson is out. The line's cohesion kind of falls apart there.