Bears, Lions Fight for Respectability

In a preview of this Sunday's Bears-Lions game, Nate Caminata from LionsFans.com and Jason Klabacha from BearReport.com conducted a Q&A to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each team. Read their takes right here!

Jason Klabacha: Has this become Joey Harrington's team by default or he is finally emerging as a team leader and reliable quarterback?
Nate Caminata: Both. Harrington was baptized by fire during his rookie season and already underwent a coaching change and several personnel moves in his first three years. It's been turbulent, controversial and criticism has run rampant. Yet, he is still under center, moving the offense. Harrington outperformed veteran newcomer Jeff Garcia during camp and the preseason, giving Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci confidence that he can get the job done. And, with Garcia out for several weeks, he doesn't have much of a choice to support him. With several fresh faces, Harrington has become a team veteran by default to a point, but there was no denying the team's confidence in him as the team entered the season. After camp, veteran tight end Marcus Pollard remarked that Harrington had the potential to be a "superstar." With loads of talent and no excuses, he'll have his opportunity to be just that.

Caminata: Is Kyle Orton capable of putting this team on his back, or will the Bears rely upon their defense throughout the season?
Klabacha: While Orton may eventually develop into a dependable staring quarterback with playmaking ability, growing pains are unavoidable this year. In the season opener, he tried to throw into triple coverage against Washington and was intercepted. The Bears hope he will be able to limit those types of mistakes, yet still take enough chances to make opponents respect the passing game. But make no mistake about it, the defense will have to carry the load for the Bears to have a successful season.

Klabacha: Everyone talks about the having three first round picks at receivers to go with Kevin Jones, but how important was the addition of Marcus Pollard in the off-season?
Caminata: Very critical. Last season, the Lions relied heavily upon veteran Stephen Alexander and were burned because of it. Alexander dropped three end zone passes (among many other drops) during the regular season, each in key situations. Pollard gives the Lions a reliable presence in the middle of the field, and Harrington loves utilizing the tight end in Detroit's west coast offense. As Green Bay realized, you can only keep containment on so many skill position players. Expect Pollard to continue to be successful as he was Sunday (5 receptions, one touchdown). Harrington likes to establish a rhythm early, something a tight end can provide with short, intermediate completions.

Caminata: How does this defense compare to the successful Bears' defenses in the past; including the 2001 unit?
Klabacha: This defense is the most talented unit the Bears have had since 80's. Whether that equals into production remains to be seen. The unit that gave up the fewest points in the league in 2001 is long gone. Only two starters (Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown) remain and the others have been replaced with athleticism and youth. GM Jerry Angelo has assembled speed on defense at the request of head coach Lovie Smith. The unit returns all 11 starters with none over the age 28, which means the group could be good for a long time.

Klabacha: While the Lions held the Packers to a field goal, did Detroit do enough in the off-season to improve their defense for the long haul?
Caminata: The Lions defense entered the regular season was one of the more underrated in the league. The team discarded aging veteran safeties Brock Marion and Brian Walker, a duo responsible for many defensive shortcomings, and replaced them Kenoy Kennedy (Broncos) and Terrence Holt. Kennedy and Holt both bring youth, something the Lions haven't fielded in the deep secondary in years, but they also have a knack for being around the ball. Each player had an interception in the season opener, and took away the deep ball from Packers' QB Brett Favre. Those two additions, along with the return of linebacker Boss Bailey during the off-season, handed Detroit a vastly improved defense over last year's unit.

Caminata: Bears' first round pick Cedric Benson didn't receive many touches last weekend; will that number increase for Sunday's contest? What are the Bears doing to get Benson more involved with the offense?
Klabacha: Benson missed the entire preseason because of a 36-day contract impasse with the Bears. His lack of reps going into the regular season meant he had to be brought along slowly. He had only three carries for 10 yards vs. the Redskins, but his workload will increase as the season moves forward. Look for Benson to be the primary back on at least two to three series against the Lions and reach double-digit carries.

Klabacha: Have the Lions tried to shape their personnel around the philosophy of defensive coordinator and former Bears head coach Dick Jauron? And how does former Bear R.W. McQuarters fit in Detroit?
Caminata: In some ways, sure, including speed at the linebacker position; the Lions pose speed demons Boss Bailey, Teddy Lehman, Alex Lewis and James Davis. However, it seemed Jauron would be more apt to blitz in Chicago than he did does in Detroit. Staying true to his "bend-but-don't break" scheme -- which has been a frustration for many fans -- Jauron plays it safe. The Lions don't take too many chances defensively, and while that might change for Sunday's game against rookie Kyle Orton, don't count on it. Still, for the criticism that Jauron takes for not taking a more aggressive approach, his philosophy worked soundly against Green Bay. McQuarters, meanwhile, provides solid depth for Detroit. He will play in some nickel situations, but the Lions were already deep at the cornerback position when McQuarters signed. Given the team's tendency to lose corners quicker than games, though, he is a nice safety valve.

Caminata: Did the Bears 'cash it in' for the season after the injury to Grossman? Is the team optimistic with Orton as the starter?
Klabacha: The Bears quarterback position is obviously the biggest question on the roster. Rex Grossman was expected to be the answer, but history with injury makes him unreliable. Although Kyle Orton lasted until the fourth round, he was considered a first or second round pick for much of last year. Trying to play through a hip injury hurt his numbers and pushed down his draft status. The Bears feel like they got one of the steals of the draft in Orton. Rookie or not, Orton has the backing of his teammates and the organization remains positive about the short and long term possibilities.

Klabacha: As much as the Lions have struggled in recent years, is there any way they come to Chicago over confident?
Caminata: You wouldn't think so. The Lions have started the previous two seasons with a win, including last year's opener at Chicago. It didn't amount to much. This team simply has not forgotten about the misery that accompanied the last two, three and for some Lions, four or more years. The team also seems to be well aware of Chicago's abilities on the defensive side of the football.

Caminata: Is Lovie Smith feeling the pressure of the Windy City, or does he have a longer leash after the consecutive injuries to Grossman?
Klabacha: Dick Jauron had only one winning season in five years, so Lovie Smith will be given some leeway. Smith fired offensive coordinator Terry Shea after just one season. He brought in Ron Turner to turn around the NFL's worst offense. Smith will not survive another offensive coordinator. The offense has to be fixed and if he didn't pick the right man for the job this time, he may be the one on the way out. Still, GM Jerry Angelo is more on the hot seat this season than Smith. However, if the Bears finish with four wins there could be a complete house cleaning. Angelo hired Smith and if a new personnel guru were pushing the buttons, he would likely want his own head coach.


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