Q&A with Nick Kostora of Detroit Lions Radio

January 7, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell watches game action against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
January 7, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell watches game action against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Nick Kostora of the Detroit Lions Radio podcast sits down with Ryan O’Bleness of SideLionReport to discuss the 2016 season and look ahead to the 2017 offseason. Nick’s responses to Ryan’s questions are below.

1. To start, please briefly introduce yourself and the Detroit Lions Radio podcast.

The Detroit Lions Radio podcast is a weekly venture between myself and co-host, Brandon Alisoglu. We have been doing the show for four seasons now, spanning about 250 episodes. We interview players, coaches and other media personalities. The idea is to break down everything surrounding the team, both on-field and off. We have a lot of fun. If anyone would like to check out the show, check out detlionsradio.com, or find us on Twitter @detlionsradio.

2. The Lions made the playoffs this season, but several questions remain. How would you grade the Lions’ 2016 season? Was it a successful or unsuccessful year?

I hate the line of thinking that says “If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the year that Detroit was going to make the playoffs, you would call it a success.” While that is true, expectations change over the course of the season, and the way the season ended makes me believe it was far from a success.

The Lions beat the teams they were supposed to beat all year, and there were definite positives to take away from 2016, but the problem is they did not step up and surprise anyone with upset wins. Down the stretch, losing to the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and then the Seattle Seahawks in the fashion they did was far from inspiring.

That being said, the effort this defense put in throughout the year gave particular hope for the future. This was an undermanned unit, especially at the linebacker position, and yet they had a great stretch of five or six games where offenses hovered around 20 points and rarely developed any rhythm. Even with Ezekiel Ansah hobbled most of the season, Detroit’s defense was solid.

On offense, it was certainly an up-and-down year, but Matthew Stafford answered any critics or detractors that he still has. The offensive line, namely Taylor Decker, Travis Swanson, Graham Glasgow and Riley Reiff had good years. It’s the complete lack of a running game that is holding the unit back.

3. Looking ahead to the offseason and free agency, are there any particular players or positions you would like to see the Lions target? What do you feel is the team’s biggest need?

Consider my last answer a teaser, as the running game is the biggest offensive need by a long shot. Now, we don’t know the futures of Reiff or Larry Warford, who are both free agents and may depart Detroit. I think retaining Reiff is the more pressing need, because Laken Tomlinson can perhaps slide over to right guard and improve upon his lackluster efforts from the left side. It’s a stretch, but it’s a more promising solution than the idea of Corey Robinson at right tackle.

A healthy Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick will ensure a dynamic tandem out of the backfield, but a better downhill runner than Zach Zenner would be a major boost.

Defensively, the Lions need a pass rush in the worst way. That means dynamic linebackers that can get in off the edge, and someone better than Devin Taylor to give offensive lines pause opposite Ansah. Tahir Whitehead, Josh Bynes and a few other spot starters gave great effort in 2016, but the Lions need legitimate talent in the front seven, and those names aren’t going to cut it moving forward.

4. Speaking of free agency, of the players whose contracts are set to expire this offseason, are there any players you feel Detroit must re-sign? Similarly, are there any players you believe the team should let walk away?

It all comes down to Reiff and Warford. The market for offensive linemen is going to be intense, and I don’t think Detroit can afford to let Reiff walk and then have to dedicate another early round pick to the position. Outside of those two, almost everyone is an interchangeable piece. Maybe you like the athleticism of Jon Bostic, or want Anquan Boldin back for another season, but it’s the offensive line that will be the storyline.

5. The Lions have the 21st pick in the 2017 NFL Draft this April. It’s early, but who would you currently like to see them take? What potential player or position?

With only one draft of Bob Quinn’s to look back on, it’s harder to define any clear trends from the Lions GM, but he sure seems to want to build things from the inside out. With that proposed philosophy in mind, I’d love to see Detroit go after a defensive end or outside linebacker in the first round. Taco Charlton’s name has been thrown around a lot already, and the Michigan defensive end makes a ton of sense. He is the type of speedy edge rusher Detroit really needs. Solomon Thomas, the defensive end from Stanford, is another versatile weapon that could fit in right away and have immediate impact.

I’ve also seen Jabrill Peppers’ name tossed out a bit, and while at first glance he would seem to fit Detroit’s scheme, the Lions already have Miles Killebrew in the role Peppers would likely fill. While I think Peppers would be a clear upgrade in that hybrid nickel/safety/linebacker role, Detroit has greater needs elsewhere that should be addressed early in the draft.

6. It is far too early to make predictions about next season, as we do not who will be added to and subtracted from the current roster. But looking at Detroit’s 2017 opponents, how do you see the season playing out? Do you foresee back-to-back playoff appearances?

The classic January prediction! If Detroit adds a legitimate presence at defensive end, a quality linebacker (or two) and adds the type of depth Quinn has already shown himself adept at bringing in, then Detroit should find itself right back in playoff contention in 2017.

The key is not to splurge on too many big name free agents and keep building through the draft. I like the direction the Lions are currently going, even if I wish Jim Caldwell wasn’t the one roaming the sidelines moving forward.

For more from Nick, follow him on Twitter @nickkostora 

Like the SLR Facebook Page and follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanOBleness

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