Chris Lemieux of our sister site, Pride of Detroit, was kind enough to answer a few of our burning questions in advance of this weekend’s cross-conference showdown in Houston. Here is what he had to say about his quarterback, his defense, and his hilariously-named offensive coordinator.
1. Are we now at the point where Jim Bob Cooter is going to be legitimately talked about as a head coaching candidate? As a side note, how valuable is Cooter (giggity) to the Lions?
We like Cooter, and who doesn't? I don't think he's head coaching material just yet, although in a league like this godforsaken NFL, it's easy to get carried away and hope there's someone new to throw out all these recycled bums. Cooter has only spent three seasons now in a non-assistant position in both the college and professional ranks -- two seasons as the Lions’ quarterbacks coach and then taking over as the offensive coordinator, all under Jim Caldwell. Even when folks are eyeballing Patriots coordinators fresh out of their nappies, I think Cooter still has a ways to go to prove himself as an established offensive mind before he can win a head coaching gig.
But honestly? Nothing Cooter is doing is that revolutionary. All he's done is bring concepts that have been widely accepted in offensive schemes outside of the ranks of the NFL. High school and college coaches have known for years that up-tempo, no-huddle offense focusing on short-yardage, high completion percentage throws with emphasis on efficiently converting first downs wins ballgames. But because the NFL is more regressive than a Quaker farmstead, these ideas still break the minds of too many people.
What Cooter's doing right is building what works for Stafford. There's a bit of a debate as to who gets credit for Stafford's evolution as a quarterback, but Cooter's offense is designed specifically to cater to his strengths. His value to the team is found there, and if you want a sign of just how much the Lions organization values Jim Bob Cooter's work with Matthew Stafford, you need look only for the reports that the Lions are prepared to do what they must to retain Cooter even if Jim Caldwell is fired at the end of the season.
2. What would you say is the biggest offensive strength and biggest offensive weakness on this roster?
Biggest Strength: Matthew Stafford. People are talking about him! It's kind of weird to be honest, a kind of attention we're not used to. We're also not used to this whole thing where the offense tends to make these drives happen coming from behind, but throughout the first half of this season it's been abundantly clear that Stafford has turned a new page. His mistakes cost the Lions less, his passes are more accurate through tighter windows, and he's out here distributing the ball around to multiple different receivers rather than relying on one super-weapon. He might have Eric Ebron and/or Theo Riddick back this week, which would only improve his potency.
Biggest Weakness: A crippling sense of losing control of your life, darkness caving in all around you. [EXPLETIVE]. [EXPLETIVE]. I'm sorry I'm sorry. I meant, have you ever seen a man with three legs run? [EXPLETIVE]. No that doesn't work. Oh, God. Uh. The run game sucks. It's really bad. No Ameer Abdullah and the rest can't run worth a damn. I'm so sorry. I need a minute.
3. How about defensive strengths and weaknesses?
Biggest strengths: They're breathing, I suppose. Mostly breathing. I suppose that can be true of many of them.
Biggest weaknesses: It would perhaps be an upgrade if things weren't all on fire all the time.
4. Is Darius Slay going to play this weekend? If so, will he be trailing DeAndre Hopkins around the field?
Jim Caldwell is notorious in how little he gives to the plebeians in regards to injury news. In his spirit, I tell ye, "Check the report."
If Slay is healthy (and he's missed Wednesday and Thursday practice, so signs don't look good), expect him to check DeAndre Hopkins quite a bit, but he won't exclusively be on him. He tends to be flexible, i.e., they didn't put him on Tavon Austin the whole time against the Rams. It really depends on the opponent, but Slay hasn't been used in an exclusive "one side of the field" or "shadow this receiver" capacity so far.
In his absence is Nevin Lawson, who has the potential to get really bullied. After him is Johnson Bademosi, and the first three letters of his last name are a pretty good indicator of his skill. Lawson is also not 100% and recently appeared with a foot injury on the reports, so this continues to downgrade this unit into "it's all on fire" territory.
5. What is your score prediction for this weekend?
I don't generally do scores well, and last time I tried to give a prediction on how the game would go over on Hogs Haven, many commenters didn't seem to appreciate the idea of an inter-dimensional clown invasion halting the game at a 3-3 tie.
Anyway, I think it will be a tough matchup. Everyone is going to leave it out there, hearts will be wrenched and fans will not dare leave their seats. It will be a circus most profane, with wonders and sights to amaze and befuddle. Both teams will play hard. Both teams will play hard. Both teams will play hard.
But at the end of the day I think the score will come out to about 92-89, Pistons over the Rockets in a real nail biter. Wait. I screwed that up again. [EXPLETIVE].
A big thank you to Chris for stopping by during his busy week. Hopefully our game this weekend will not be as cardiac arrest-inducing as the Thanksgiving shootout four years ago (thank you again, Justin Forsett). Feel free to stop by P.O.D. this week and read all of their excellent work on all things Lions. I promise you won’t be disappointed.