Chat with Michael Rothstein
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN NFL Nation Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein drops by to chat and answer all of your Lions questions.
Rothstein joined ESPN.com in 2011 after covering the University of Michigan for AnnArbor.com, Notre Dame for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette and a host of colleges for the Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, Va.). A Syracuse graduate and an East Meadow, N.Y. native, he lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Send your questions now and join Rothstein Wednesday at noon ET!
Michael Rothstein (12:02 PM)
Good afternoon everyone (on the east coast) and welcome to this week's Detroit Lions live chat. I'll be here for around the next hour taking your questions, so get them in.
You were supposed to do this yesterday. You're late!
Michael Rothstein (12:03 PM)
The Lions had the open OTA of the week yesterday, Craig, so we had to switch things around since I couldn't chat and talk to players and coaches at the same time. I'm versatile, but not that good.
Zack Shue (Grand Blanc, MI)
Do you think the Lions will do good this year? And how do you think Golden Tate will do this year? And, do you think they will be better than 500.?
Michael Rothstein (12:05 PM)
That's three questions right there, Zack. I've said pretty consistently at this point I see 7-9 for Detroit this year. There are a lot of factors that weigh into that, including a rough end-of-season schedule. Golden Tate could have a pretty good season, though. I think he'll end up being second on the Lions in catches and yards behind Calvin Johnson.
Do u have the lions making the playoffs this year?
Michael Rothstein (12:05 PM)
Following that last question -- 7-9 isn't making the playoffs in the NFC. No chance.
Say this season Nick Fairley does have the breakout season the Lions hope he will have. Do they have enough money to resign both him and Suh to new contracts so both can remain on the team?
Michael Rothstein (12:07 PM)
This is a very intriguing question, Matt, and it would probably be a problem Detroit would like to have. This would mean Nick Fairley would finally have the season the Lions hoped he would when they drafted him in 2011. In that case -- and defensive tackle is not your typical high-spending position -- it might come down to how much the salary cap would escalate to. If it is a big bump, it could happen. But that's the only way I see it.
John B. (Lanexa, VA)
Matt Stafford has now had some time with his new OC and HC. Is there any indication that they have implemented a plan that will elevate him to the next level at the position?
Michael Rothstein (12:09 PM)
John, as every quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator will do, they have spent time working with Matthew Stafford's footwork. The thought seems to be the new scheme along with adding Golden Tate and Eric Ebron should be helpful enough to push Stafford to the next level. No matter what the coaches do, though, it'll be up to Stafford to cut down on the late-game mistakes that hurt him last season.
All analyst projections on the Lions record in 2014 I've seen have been middling or worse. With history as a guide, one probably can't fault them for putting forward such views. However, if one takes a look at the data, the defense was much better than the perception and offense had too many (correctable) turnovers at key junctures. In your view, what are the keys for the team to outperform the early projections?
Michael Rothstein (12:10 PM)
Well, Jason, I'm already more impressed with the defense (yes, it's June...) than I anticipated being. Then again, I wasn't all that high on the secondary during the start of the offseason. The keys will be what the keys will always be in this version of the NFL: Good quarterback play and turnover limitations/creation. Have those two things in your favor and you have a shot every year. Don't -- and you need some help.
Kenny (Chesterfield, MI)
Hello, Michael. Yesterday/today in the NFC North group on Facebook, we were talking about who is considered an "elite" in the NFC North. Can you offer your insight on the definition and who you think is elite in the NFC North?
Michael Rothstein (12:13 PM)
Elite is such subjective definition once you get past the Peyton Mannings and Adrian Petersons and surefire Hall of Famers. I've been guilty of using the elite word myself but I really don't like it. The only "elite" team I see in the division is Green Bay, but the league is cyclical enough that there is a chance for a rise or drop every year. As far as players, there are a few.
Jason chesterfield MI [via mobile]
I hate it when people say Stafford is only a mediocre qb when In fact I think he is a potential top 5 right now. So with that do you think Matt has a big year this year or is he just gonna be another joey in this town?
Michael Rothstein (12:16 PM)
First off, Stafford is already much better than Joey Harrington. His numbers alone scream that along with the whole playoff appearance thing. Stafford isn't a mediocre quarterback as much as he is one with tantalizing talent that hasn't gotten to the point people expect yet. One of the things that sticks out to me is something Rod Woodson said to me about corners -- players are judged in this league very young now. That might be part of it. That said, Stafford has to take a positive step this season in his development. Six years is enough time.
I don't remember everything covered last time, but, would you say Darius Slay is looking like the Lions no. 1 entering the season, assuming nothing goes wrong?
Michael Rothstein (12:18 PM)
Are you really from Australia because that would be awesome? (One of my closer friends lives in Melbourne) Yes, Slay is almost definitely the team's No. 1 cornerback right now. For the Lions to have a successful season, he has to be.
Paul (Arizona) [via mobile]
Good afternoon Michael, love your post! Keep up the good reporting. I have an opinion that might differ from many others that have written on your board. The Lions offense last year was much more responsible for their downfall than the defense in the second half of the season. After their six and three start, their offense got worse by six points per game in their defense exit got better by two points a game. Therefore, why was everyone so upset when the address their offense first?
Michael Rothstein (12:21 PM)
I think it is because there's the thought -- including from me -- that the offense has enough star power and talent to be successful in the league already. Plus adding a head coach with a heavy offensive background should immediately help Matthew Stafford. The secondary was still pretty weak last season even with the offensive issues, too. Everyone had a hand in the Lions' downfall last season from the front office on down.
Travis (Boston, MA)
I might be behind the ball on this....but is there a long term extension deal with Suh? Whats's taking so long?
Michael Rothstein (12:22 PM)
Not yet. Negotiations take time, I guess.
Who will be a Lion longer, Suh or Fairley and will that be past next year?
Michael Rothstein (12:24 PM)
This is a tough question, Shawn, but I'm going to go with Ndamukong Suh. The Lions have made it clear they want to bring him back and will probably be able to pay him more than he'll make in free agency -- or at least be able to work things there. If the Lions sign Suh, I think the chances Fairley returns as well fall sharply. That said, I wouldn't rule out any combination of things happening at this point.
70, sunny, not a cloud in the sky here in the Keweenaw. After 330+ inches of snow I'm feeling happy and healthy up here! Seems like our Lions are not feeling as healthy right now. Give us an update on an injuries you think could linger into the season. Thanks!
Michael Rothstein (12:27 PM)
Hey Jim. I'm jealous as it feels like a spring Syracuse day (rain, clouds) here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As far as the injuries go, Chris Houston is the only one right now that seems to be a lingering one. Right now, especially for veterans, there isn't much reason to push something. So you hold a guy like Golden Tate or Joique Bell out for precautionary reasons because you know what they'll give you in the fall.
So reports are that the offense is behind the defense right now. Are O players missing assignments or are D players making plays?
Michael Rothstein (12:28 PM)
Doug, the offense made some strides this week during the open OTA, but the defense has been consistently making plays in team drills. The secondary has been particularly impressive at points, reading Stafford well and breaking on balls well. They've made smart decisions, too, and have had a ton of energy.
Most definitely from Australia. From Brisbane. It's currently 2:20am.
Michael Rothstein (12:29 PM)
You're a dedicated Lions fan, Ashley. Or you're working the night shift, but glad to have you from the other side of the world. Now if you could just tell my Aussie friends it's easier to talk to them at this time of day for me...
Steve (Monroe, Mi)
I haven't heard too much about the LB's during the OTA's how are they looking and does it look like any rookies or younger players have a chance to break in to start?
Michael Rothstein (12:30 PM)
There's not too much to say right now, Steve. I anticipate Levy and Tulloch will be a bit more aggressive this season, but that will come with scheme. Kyle Van Noy should end up starting as well as long as he's healthy. He missed practice Tuesday due to injury. Those are the starters. Everyone else is depth and fighting for roster spots right now.
Dominic (California) [via mobile]
Hey Michael, thanks for covering the lions! Would you say you have seen anything interesting in regards to getting better on 3rd downs during OTA's?
Michael Rothstein (12:31 PM)
Dominic, no problem. Thanks for following along. Haven't really seen a lot there, but again -- it's May/June OTAs. The Lions were pretty good on third down defense last season and appeared sharp during the two-minute drill a couple of weeks ago on all downs. The real answer to that -- and it sounds like a copout -- is we won't know the third down equation until a quarter of the way through the season.
Larry (FL by way of MI) [via mobile]
2 questions: Do you think Ansah could have a pro bowl caliber season, especially since Jason Jones and Fairley should be both (fingers crossed) healthy and consistent? And second, do you think KVN will make the same type of rookie contribution that Ziggy did?
Michael Rothstein (12:33 PM)
Larry, it's possible Ansah can do that if he stays healthy. He hasn't been out there during OTAs except during walkthrough type of things, so it is tough to really envision how they'll use him in the fall and what type of shape he's in. But a healthy Fairley along with more blitzes and rush lanes could lead him to make bigger plays. Considering his rookie season, it's easy to forget he's still learning the game in some ways so the upside -- hey, it's NBA draft season! -- on him is very high. As far as Van Noy, tough to say until training camp. It'll all depend on how much nickel the Lions end up playing.
I believe 7-9 is a little low. I think at least 9-7 is more accurate. each side of the ball got better in the off season. Tate is a huge upgrade. The defense was middling last year with no major losses or acquisitions (and no I don't think willie young was a major loss with getting Jones back and taylors play). I get what youare saying about the back end of the schedule, but the front end looks like a fast start to me. Can you detail more about why you think 7-9?
Michael Rothstein (12:36 PM)
Sure. The schedule is rough. New Orleans is going to be difficult. Atlanta should, in theory, be back to their old ways instead of what happened last season. Can't see the Giants struggling for two straight seasons. Going to New England isn't easy, either. That, to me, is a much harder on-paper schedule than what Detroit had last season. I'm also not completely sold on the development yet. I like what I've seen from the secondary, but want to see something in at least a preseason game or two. Same with the offensive scheme.
House Of Beers (Middleville, MI)
Who will be the #2 QBS on the Lions this year?
Michael Rothstein (12:36 PM)
Dan Orlovsky should be the backup barring injury. The No. 3 spot will be between Kellen Moore and, for now, James Franklin.
Jeremy (Traverse City, MI)
Michael, is not possible that the defense could be significantly improved with the new scheme? With the secondary playing press coverage that extra second could be enough to get a lot more sacks and create more turnovers if the front 4 plays up to there potential. Perhaps even a top 10 defense?
Michael Rothstein (12:38 PM)
This is definitely a possibility, Jeremy. Written a lot about the defense -- specifically varying cornerbacks -- the past two weeks and they'll be the key to a lot of stuff. If Darius Slay and Bill Bentley make improvements, it really could give the Lions some flexibility at corner, too. There's a chance for this defense to be pretty good if everyone plays to their capabilities.
Kenny (Chesterfield, MI)
Do you think Ebron and that one other drafted player (I forget who we have yet to sign) will eventually get signed?
Michael Rothstein (12:39 PM)
You're thinking of Van Noy and yes, that'll happen at some point. The Lions just need to free up some money to do the deals, either through an extension for some guy named Ndamukong Suh or simple contract restructuring. It'll happen.
The Lions schedule in 2013 had a fast start with a tough back end, went 7-9. And they weren't learning a new offense or defense.
Michael Rothstein (12:40 PM)
Also this. The players had some help with some questionable coaching decisions, though.
Do you think we'll see a lot of Reggie Bush in the slot and Joique Bell in the backfield this year? With Bush, Megatron, and Ebron all having to be covered it seems it would open up a ton of space for the offense.
Michael Rothstein (12:41 PM)
You're forgetting Golden Tate there and in the Lions' ideal world, that they have this many options is essentially the point of why they added more offense. I would say you'll see Reggie Bush a little bit of everywhere on the field, kind of like last season. He won't get as many carries, but he should get as many receptions as last season, if not more. He has to work on holding onto the ball, though.
I'm obviously biased and see the Lions winning the NFC North. That being said, if they make the playoffs, are they one and done or do you see them making a push?
Michael Rothstein (12:43 PM)
Had this conversation with another reporter out at practice yesterday. It would really depend on the opponent and the seeding. If the Lions win the NFC North and get a home game, then yeah, they'd have a shot at winning at least that first game. Yes, new year and all, but have a tough time seeing this team winning at Seattle, San Francisco or New Orleans. In your scenario they wouldn't have to go to Green Bay, so that's out. But outside of those three teams, sure.
Larry (Wndsor, Canada)
If Suh does not sign and become a free agent next year, can Lion's franchise or tender him? Or is he just lost for no return?
Michael Rothstein (12:44 PM)
They could franchise him, yes. That would be very expensive, though.
Are the Lions running more two tight end sets during these OTAs?
Michael Rothstein (12:45 PM)
Aaron, funny you should ask this question. I'll have more on this topic today or tomorrow. The short answer -- and I've written this before -- is yes, you'll see more two tight end formations this season. The Lions have to find ways to get Ebron and Pettigrew on the field.
CJ (Charlotte, MI)
DAN ORLOVSKY? Why!? WHy!? WHY!? With the amount of depth players vying to make the team at other positions wouldn't it be smart to keep Moore as the #2 QB and send Franklin to the practice squad and have the real battle next year between Moore and Franklin? Dano has played 24 games with a losing record with a 14-12 td-int ratio.... Please help me realize why he is still on this team? Please. His knowledge of the system does not outweigh his poor play. Dano and Curtis Painter... I still cant fathom how either of them still have NFL jobs.....Thank you!
Michael Rothstein (12:48 PM)
Deep breaths, CJ. Deep breaths. There was no way -- NONE -- that Jim Caldwell was going into his first season in Detroit without an experienced backup quarterback behind Matthew Stafford. What happened in Indianapolis when Peyton Manning went down and the 2-14 that followed ensured that. Kellen Moore has yet to take a regular season snap so he couldn't be the No. 2 out of the game. Orlovsky has also been on some bad teams -- and a 14-12 TD/INT ratio isn't terrible for someone who has been mostly a career backup. Don't know how anyone can be sold on Moore as a viable No. 2 quarterback right now from what you've seen. When you think about this, ask yourself this question: If Stafford went down, what would give you confidence Kellen Moore could win you NFL games based on what you've seen.
House Of Beers (Middleville, MI)
The universal descriptor for Caldwell is "calm". With your contacts like Raiola, what else do they see in him?
Michael Rothstein (12:49 PM)
They really like the way he delivers the message and the consistent nature he displays. He's not a yeller and a screamer and is exceedingly professional in his dealings. So far, they also believe him to be very honest and have trust in him. They also know that the real answers to this won't come until the season starts anyway. I think that kind of answers it.
Larry (Wndsor, Canada)
If Suh and Fairly both go in 2015, can you see them going to a 3-4 assuming a good NT is available in FA or Draft?
Michael Rothstein (12:50 PM)
I think it's possible the 3-4 could eventually -- eventually -- come even if one of Suh/Fairley stays.
I think a good argument can be made that the only position group the Packers are better than the Lions is QB, but pundit think the Pack are elite. I think theyre both a level below Seattle & SF, right there with Carolina, NO and Atl
Michael Rothstein (12:52 PM)
That's a fair argument, Mork, and I'd put Seattle and San Francisco above Green Bay right now as well. As I mentioned before, I don't like the word elite all that much, however the Packers consistently make the playoffs and they have the best quarterback in the division. Quarterback play is so key in the NFL, that's part of it.
Michael Rothstein (12:53 PM)
Hey, this hour has gone by fast. Time for a couple of more questions. I'll answer some more on the Lions page either later today or in the morning as well so get those final queries in.
i know its early but the vibe around the rookies this year seems tobe not as high this year warford and ansah were being talked aboutearly in ota's. this rookie class seems to be more of a mayhew draft and not a very good one if this turns out to be the case will he and jim cadlwel be let go at the end of the season like the cleveland browns did after one year.
Michael Rothstein (12:55 PM)
There's a lot to answer here, Phill. Part of the reason I think you're not hearing as much about the rookies is that everything is new this season -- from the coaches to the scheme to a lot of the players. So there's a lot more information to cover. Van Noy has been hurt for one open OTA. Caraun Reid was graduating yesterday so he wasn't there. Ebron has been good, but has dropped some easy passes. The other reason is that there isn't as much of a need for big-time starters out of this class like last season, when there was a need/expectation out of that. My guess is by training camp you'll hear a lot more about Ebron, Van Noy, etc.
Michael Rothstein (12:56 PM)
And to the Mayhew/Caldwell question -- it's early on that, but the Lions have always showed patience. Have a tough time seeing Detroit letting go of Caldwell after one year unless something like 0-16/1-15/2-14/3-13 happened with no significant injuries. Not as sold on what happens to Mayhew if the Lions don't have at least a decent season, but there are a ton of variables still. It's June.
Why did Houston wait so long to have surgery? Could have been taken care of a long time ago.
Michael Rothstein (12:57 PM)
Probably should have been. Haven't been able to get a straight answer on this.
Larry (Wndsor, Canada)
Has been quiet on the Broles front. Ia he healthy and participating?
Michael Rothstein (12:58 PM)
You'll get your answer on this in about an hour or so on the site.
Michael Rothstein (12:58 PM)
I seem to remember a certain DT a few years ago by the name of Albert Haynesworth who was kind of lazy until a contract year, He turned it on and got a lot of money from Dan Schneider(what player hasnt?) and he never went back to that level.... Does this seem like it could happen to the Lions with Fairley?
Michael Rothstein (1:00 PM)
That would be something to factor in for Detroit at the end of the season no matter how Nick Fairley plays in 2014. He has a ton of talent -- not unlike Haynesworth -- but never seemed to have that consistency until he had to. It is both part of the reason I didn't understand the Lions declining his option and part of the reason why the Lions would likely be hesitant on signing him long-term no matter what year he has. But there's a long way between now and then.
Michael Rothstein (1:00 PM)
Thanks, as always, for the great questions. If I didn't get to yours, I'll try to in the chat extras post later today or tomorrow. Or you can tweet at me @mikerothstein. Have a great week, everyone!