Lions vs. 49ers: 5 questions with Steven Mullenax of SideLion Report

49ers vs. Lions 5 questions
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Niner Noise’s Chris Wilson goes behind enemy lines to preview the San Francisco 49ers’ matchup with the Detroit Lions. Here’s what Steven Mullenax of FanSided’s SideLion Report had to say about the Niners’ Week 2 opponent.

In advance of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 2 matchup with the Detroit Lions, Niner Noise’s Chris Wilson and SideLion Report’s Site Expert Steven Mullenax answered a set of questions about each team — and Steven didn’t hold back.

Here are Steven’s answers to Chris’ five questions about the 2018 Detroit Lions:

CW: How much of the Detroit Lions’ disappointing Week 1 performance do you attribute to the New York Jets allegedly stealing Detroit’s signals and audibles?

SM: None, really. Anyone who watched the game could see that quarterback Matthew Stafford and his talented receiver corps were having success moving the ball down the field at times. So what happened to reading those signals on those plays? The truth is the Lions’ inability to run the ball, drops by their wideouts and Stafford’s inconsistency really put their offense behind the eight ball throughout the game. Clearly, the Jets were well-prepared and took advantage of every one of the Lions’ mistakes. But even Stafford came out and said they change those hand signals every week. So unless New York had some sort of insider knowledge, it all just seems like unnecessary gloating by a team that hasn’t had much to gloat about the past couple seasons.

CW: The Lions have an impressive trio of wideouts. Which wide receiver should the 49ers be most concerned with on Sunday?

SM: Second-year receiver Kenny Golladay is the ultimate boom-or-bust candidate. He has all the tools to be a star in this passing offense but disappeared at times last season. But I’d be more worried about Marvin Jones Jr. At times last season, Jones looked like the Lions’ top receiving threat and could bypass Golden Tate for that role soon. He could have scored two touchdowns on Monday night, but simply wasn’t able to come down with the ball. Jones is the receiver I’d be most concerned about.

CW: What was Detroit’s biggest personnel deficiency in 2017, and how did they attempt to address the need over the offseason?

SM: No doubt it was at running back. The Lions posted the worst rushing attack in the NFL last season. This offseason, they signed three-time Super Bowl winner LeGarrette Blount. A human hammer, Blount is expected to help Detroit convert on their short-yardage opportunities, an area they struggled mightily with last season. The Lions also used their first two draft picks to help address their rushing woes, landing Arkansas center/guard Frank Ragnow in the first round, and trading up in the second for Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. Both rookies were impressive in the offseason. Johnson had a solid debut against the Jets and figures to get more opportunities against the Niners.

CW: The Lions spent significant draft capital on Kerryon Johnson, yet the talented back has yet to distance himself from the rest of the team’s RBs. While his lack of usage last week was at least partially a product of game flow, does Johnson have what it takes to become the feature back the Lions have lacked in recent years, and will Detroit use him in that capacity this season?

SM: Blount always figured to start the season as the primary ball-carrier in Detroit. But many, including myself, expect Johnson to eventually become the starter as the season progresses. Whenever Kerryon has seen action, both in the preseason and in Week One, he’s provided a much-needed spark. And that’s the role the Lions currently have him filling. But the rookie is the entire package and a genuine three-down back who can run the ball with both speed and power, is a good receiver out of the backfield, and can pass protect. But Johnson also has an extensive injury history that begins all the way back to high school. So the Lions will likely ease him into the role. And they can do so because of the presence of Blount.

CW: What’s your game score prediction for tomorrow’s 49ers Lions game — and why?

SM: Coming off a short week, and following their poor performance against the Jets on Monday night, it’s hard for me to see the Lions pulling out a victory on the road against the 49ers. I expect a pretty low scoring affair, with San Francisco winning in their home opener, 20-17.

Next. Lions vs. 49ers: 5 X-factors for San Francisco. dark

Steven Mullenax was FanSided’s NFL Editor of the Year in 2014 and a FanSided Hall of Fame Inductee in 2015. You can follow Steven on Twitter @stevenmullenax.