Opposite Sideline: Lions limping into Lambeau
The lowdown on the Green Bay Packers' next opponent from a beat writer who covers the team.
The Green Bay Packers return to Lambeau Field after a month-long absence, between their last two preseason games and their first two regular-season contests. They will take on a Detroit Lions team that, like the Packers, sits at 1-1 with a bevy of issues in need of fixing.
We caught up with Dave Birkett, who covers the Lions for the Detroit Free Press, to get a better feel for where the Lions are heading into Sunday's divisional showdown. You can see his answers below and more in the conversation above.
1. With Ameer Abdullah on the shelf, will Theo Riddick take the bulk of the carries oSunday? Or will the Lions still split things up between Riddick and the rookie Washington?
"Theo Riddick will be the Lions' No. 1 running back and should get the majority of the playing time, but he's not built to be a workhorse ball carrier and the Lions prefer to use the committee approach to their backfield. Riddick has been most effective as a receiver to this point in his career, but he made some strides as a runner, particularly with his vision, this offseason. He had a career-high 11 carries in last week's loss to the Tennessee Titans, with eight of them coming after Abullah's injury. I expect he'll get 10 to 15 carries a game going forward, with rookie Dwayne Washington playing the primary role as his backup."
2. Golden Tate has had a rocky start to the season, but usually plays well against Green Bay. Do you expect him to be more productive this Sunday than he has been through the first two games of the season?
"Tate actually led the Lions in receptions each of the last two seasons, ahead of Calvin Johnson, so his quiet start (just 54 yards receiving) has come as a bit of a surprise. Marvin Jones has established himself as the Lions' No. 1 receiver, and Riddick and tight end Eric Ebron have also proven to be viable weapons. Tate doesn't offer much down the field, but he should get more opportunity this week given the both state of the Lions' running game and the injuries in the Packers' secondary."
3. With so many injuries at linebacker, do you expect defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to have to use more nickel and dime than he'd normally like?
"Linebacker was the weakest position on the Lions' defense heading into the season, and those concerns have only been amplified by their recent injury problems. DeAndre Levy hasn't practiced in almost two weeks because of a quad injury and Kyle Van Noy and Antwione Williams left last week's game with injuries. The Lions had just two healthy linebackers at practice Wednesday and might need to call up reinforcements from the practice squad for Sunday. That said, the Lions already play nickel defense about 70 percent of the time, so I'm not sure how much that'll change this week."