Detroit Lions mailbag: How to fix NFL preseason; keep eye on Patriots QB situation

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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With NFL preseason finally coming to an end this week, it feels like a good time for another Detroit Lions mailbag. Let’s get to your questions.

Do you think it is time for the NFL to address the pre-season problem? If starters are not using the games to prepare for the regular season, what is the point? It feels like we are going to get a bunch of sloppy games in week 1 because no one has played together. - @greatmurbinski

The NFL absolutely has a preseason problem, and count me among those who hopes big changes are coming in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Now, I don’t think an 18-game regular season is the answer, and without that, I have a hard time believing owners will reduce the amount of preseason games (and thus cut into their profit). So as hopeful as I am, I’m also realistic about the situation.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton walks to the locker room after injuring his foot against the Patriots on Thursday.

One compromise I believe would work is a 17-game regular season with three preseason games, giving every team an international game (and an extra bye week). I would say the third preseason game would be played at a neutral-home site (say, Grand Rapids for the Lions), but there have also been enough problems with fields at these type of venues (see Thursday’s Packers-Raiders game) to think that might be unrealistic.

Regardless of the solution, the preseason needs to shrink. Training camp can stay about the same length, because players need development time and teams need looks at their younger players. But there’s not reason for starters to play much any more, especially with all the joint practices that take place, and the quality of football is mostly unwatchable.

As for what it means for Week 1, these are still some of the best athletes in the world so the product will be fine. It won’t be perfect. Teams should get better as the season goes on. But I’d rather watch starters out there making a few more mistakes than have backups playing key roles because my starters got injured in exhibition games. 

Update:Jarrad Davis, Frank Ragnow not IR candidates after preseason injuries

Inside the Lions:Why rookie Jahlani Tavai is ready to run defense

Dave. Really worried that if the offensive line holds up & Kerryon has a big year we might actually be good. Yes, worried, terrified even. Last time I felt good about a team was '14 & then the referees stole my joy. Trying not to get attached if this thing isn't going anywhere - @ch0z3n1

Don’t worry, enjoy the ride. That 2014 Lions team was the best I’ve covered, and sure, you can blame the refs for what happened, but they had their chances to win that playoff game against the Cowboys, too. As for this year, this team is a far cry from that one right now, but I do think there’s some upside to be had.

The defensive line, if healthy, should be really good, and the offense is a bounce-back candidate given the talent on the roster. We haven’t seen enough of Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones and Co. to feel great about where the offense is heading into the regular season. For that matter, we haven’t seen anything from the vaunted defensive line, either.

If things come together, the Lions could have another fun season, but for now that’s a big “if.” 

If the Patriots were to cut Brian Hoyer do you believe he’d be a serious consideration for the Lions to sign as Stafford’s backup, even without experience in Bevell’s offense? - @andrewkeck

Patriots quarterbacks Brian Hoyer (2) and Tom Brady (12), and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia talk during warmups prior to Super Bowl LII against the Eagles on Feb. 4, 2018 in Minneapolis.

Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham has impressed as Tom Brady’s backup to the point he has a roster spot sewn up, and that means Hoyer is on the roster bubble heading into next week’s cuts. I think the Lions would have to consider Hoyer if he became available, because right now they have one of the worst backup situations in the league. But that doesn’t mean he’d be a slam-dunk signing.

Hoyer is similar to Tom Savage in that he’s a former starter and the type of player that you can turn the offense over to for a half or game and feel good that you’ll still have a chance to win. He has history with Lions coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn from the time they spent together in New England.

Savage appears very close to returning, and given the time he has already spent in coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense and his past history with quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan, I’d guess he’s still the backup at this point. But if his concussion history is a concern, perhaps that pushes the Lions to explore Hoyer even more if he becomes available.

Birkett: Lions backup QB situation may be worst in NFL: Here are their options ]

Now that Snacks is signed to a 1 year extension, what are your thoughts on a potential Slay extension? Would it be similar to Snacks? Or a longer extension with more or less guarantees? - @JHusocki_97

Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins works against Lions cornerback Darius Slay during joint practice Aug. 14.

Word started leaking around joint practices with the Texans last week that the Lions and Damon Harrison were closing in on an extension, but I didn’t hear anything at that time about a new deal for Darius Slay. That doesn’t mean Slay won’t get an extension at some point in the next few months, but the Harrison deal made sense in that he signed his old contract with a different team (the New York Giants) and was more underpaid in comparison to his peers than Slay.

Slay is due $12 million this fall and signed his extension three summers ago with the Lions. He’s worthy of a new contract in my opinion, but he might have to wait longer to get one that makes sense for both sides. If I’m the Lions, I’d want to lock Slay up beyond the 2021 season, which is all Harrison’s extension takes him through. And truly, if Slay waits till next year, he stands to make even more on a deal.

I'm very excited about Beau B. He had a good showing last week, but should I temper my expectations? - @Raymond75696178

Undrafted rookie offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel is a player I’ll be keeping my eye on over the next week because I believe he has a chance to make this roster. Benzschawel didn’t do anything to stand out early on, but I saw improvement over the course of training camp and even put a star next to his name after watching him in a few one-on-one pass-rush drills.

The Lions are weighing their options at left guard, and I don’t believe Benzschawel is an option there right now. Either Kenny Wiggins or Joe Dahl will start, but Wiggins is in the last year of his contract and Dahl’s new deal was for backup money. I think Benzschawel is most likely bound for the practice squad, but if he plays well in the final preseason game, and the Lions think he has down-the-line potential, he’s worth keeping over some of the other journeymen linemen on their roster.

Lions stock watch:Rookie Ty Johnson makes plays, OL needs help

How has Patricia’s defense fared against the chargers in the past? Looking forward to home opener - @RDerenzy

The regular-season opener is two weeks away and the Lions host the Los Angeles Chargers in their home opener on my son’s fifth birthday, Sept. 15. That game is looking more winnable than I originally expected because of the Derwin James injury and Melvin Gordon’s holdout, but the Chargers remain a dangerous team.

The Patriots faced the Chargers twice during the six seasons Patricia was defensive coordinator from 2012-17, won both games and held the Chargers to a combined 27 points in those games.

Gordon ran for 132 yards on 14 carries in the second of those contests – he was still in college for the first – but 87 of those yards came on one touchdown run. The Patriots did a good job keeping receiver Keenan Allen in check in both of those games, and I imagine that will be a big focus.

Looking at the box scores, they were able to get pressure on Philip Rivers and keep the Chargers off the field. In both games, the Patriots had more than 34 minutes time of possession.

If you had to choose between a Popeye's chicken sandwich with a division title win or a Chic-fila chicken sandwich with a 10-6 record and 1 playoff win which would you choose? - @HandsomeVellz

And now for the most important question this week. … I tried the new Popeye’s sandwich and it was excellent, but not something I’d wait 20-plus minutes for again. I’m definitely a fan of the Chick-fil-A sandwich and imagine I’ll have a choice to make next time I’m in the 60 gates at the airport. (Side note: I switch it up and grab Popeye’s sometimes already, depending on how long my flight and wait are.)

As for the division title or playoff win, winning a playoff game always trumps winning a division as that gets you one step closer to the ultimate goal, but as an impartial observer, I’ll take whichever option comes with a side and a drink.

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Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

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