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Sunday August 31, 2008 8:42 am

NFL Preview: Detroit Lions




Posted by Charles Mitri Categories: NFL,

Roy Williams of the Detroit Lions

DETROIT LIONS
2007 RECORD: 7-9
Overview: The Detroit Lions are a team of the future. Catch is, the future is still a few seasons off in Motown. Like the Chicago Bears, the Lions came within one win of both .500 and second place behind the Minnesota Vikings. Not bad for a team that spent most of the ‘06 season scraping bottom in the NFC North. Still, like Chicago and Minnesota, the Lions are rebuilding, patching up the defense, and strengthening the offense. Hope springs eternal during preseason, but that’s just a warm-up for the regular season.

Offense: Though the men from Motor City ranked 19th in overall offense, there were a few glimmers of hope. Their pass attack finished a very respectable ninth with a 62.7 completion rate and boasts a solid receiving corp of Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, and Shaun McDonald.  The rushing game was a different story where the Lions finished 31st out of 32 teams - lots of room for improvement.  Passing games work when balanced by an effective ground attack. Re-tooling the offense falls to offensive coordinator Jim Colletto and running back Tatum Bell who appeared in a scant five games last year then languished for the next three months on injured reserve.  Colletto is looking to inject more running plays into the Motown offense with zone blocking. A nice idea on paper, but the regular season will paint a better picture. Question marks hang over the QB spot. Starting QB Jon Kitna is slated for opening day but is facing competition from Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton. Quarterback-by-committee is never a good idea. Coach Marinelli should pick one gunslinger and stick with his decision.
Defense: Here’s where the nightmares kick in. Detroit finished dead last in total defense, next to last in pass defense, and 23rd against the run. Veteran safety Kenoy Kennedy was pink-slipped after the ‘07 campaign in favor of Daniel Bullocks and Gerald Alexander. Unfortunately, Bullocks was sidelined with an ACL injury during the preseason. Cornerback Fernando Bryant got his walking papers to make room for Travis Fisher and Keith Smith. Will Bullocks, Alexander, Fisher and Smith outdo their predecessors? Once you hit rock bottom, you can only go in one direction - up. The defensive line was bolstered with the addition of veteran nose tackle Chuck Darby. Rounding out the front three are Cory Redding and Dewayne White. The downside is that the defense still needs to learn to think and function as a cohesive unit. Ultimately it will be the defense that determines whether the Lions finish at or over .500 this year.
Rookies: Detroit has a scant 12 rookies on its roster, no doubt the result of trading away draft picks. Defensive end Cliff Avril is already being tapped for significant playing time. Wide receiver Kenneth Moore has his size against him - 5’11” and 195 lbs. Moore could surprise a few people if he logs any serious playing time. Running back Kevin Smith has both speed and size working for him. Barring any serious injuries to starters, the remainder of Detroit’s newcomers will probably go the rookie route of watch and learn.
Prediction: The Lions hold the dubious distinction of being one of only six teams that has never played in a Super Bowl, but they keep improving one year at a time. Since no one will be moving the Green Bay Packers from the top of the Black and Blue division for at least a couple of more seasons, the remainder of the division is a toss up. Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit all seem to have the same kinds of problems. That means any one of them could finish second, third. or dead last. The Lions were in the hunt for a playoff spot right into December but they still don’t have the kind of seasoning to put them over the top.

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