Behind Enemy Lines: Part II

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Nate Caminata of Roar Report, break down Sunday's game between the Bears and Lions at Ford Field in Detroit. Let's continue this three-part series with five questions from John to Nate.

John Crist: Detroit offensive coordinator Mike Martz has a reputation for spinning productive quarterbacks out of straw, and he appears to have done it once again with 35-year-old veteran Jon Kitna. How much credit does Martz deserve for resurrecting this passing attack, and how much credit does Kitna deserve for putting up the numbers he has already?

Nate Caminata:
Martz is really the only coach in the league capable of turning water into wine. However, Kitna's development is perhaps more special because unlike Martz's previous pupils, Kitna was an aged veteran that many had written off after he stepped aside in Cincinnati. Instead, he maintains great accuracy, has a solid understanding of Martz's offense, and possesses a sound leadership over the offense.

Kitna is already on pace to pass for over 5,000 yards and, if Detroit is able to make a post-season run, perhaps become Martz's most notable success behind center.

JC: Martz has once again shown almost no commitment to the run as the Lions are averaging only 67.7 yards per game on the ground, but former first-rounder Kevin Jones made his 2007 debut last week and scored a touchdown. Is it a foregone conclusion that he will supplant Tatum Bell as the starter before long, and will Jones ever live up to his endless potential?


RB Kevin Jones
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
NC:
Martz understands the importance of the running game, but there are a few trains of thought here. First, Detroit is a passing offense. That is their identity. And with the array of weapons, which may even exceed what he had in St. Louis, who can blame him? Secondly, the absence of both Jones and T.J. Duckett hasn't exactly bolstered his confidence in the run department.

It can be safely assumed that Jones will replace Bell, at least as the team's primary running back. Bell can still be a great change-of-pace back and will also see regular action to keep Detroit's rushing legs healthy and fresh. Whether or not Jones can respond after his injury and become that consistent, explosive player we witnessed his rookie season won't be known by anyone until the year is done. With that said, 2007 is likely his last opportunity to do so.

JC: Roy Williams is the thoroughbred talent. Calvin Johnson is the prototype rookie. Mike Furrey is the possession target. Shaun McDonald is the out-of-nowhere contributor. What else is there to know about this incredibly deep receiving corps, and what are each player's strengths and weaknesses?

NC:
That was already a nice diagnosis of Detroit's receiving core. Because of the matchup problems, there is absolutely no way to completely turn off the team's aerial capabilities – it simply won't happen. Although it may sound cliché, there is no way to necessarily stop the passing attack; the Bears can only hope to contain it, as Philadelphia did. Each player has sound hands, good speed, and a keen understanding of what Martz expects from his receivers. Johnson has already grasped the rather intricate offense and is seeing the field more and more as a result. Even with nine sacks on Kitna, the Eagles were still unable to keep the Lions offense completely grounded.

The key, as it was during Martz's "Greatest Show on Turf" days in St. Louis, is keeping the Detroit offense on the sideline. If they aren't on the field, they can't score – that's the biggest (and perhaps only) weakness.

JC: Once again, Detroit is having all kinds of trouble in the secondary and ranks 31st in the league defending the pass. Is there any reason to assume that this unit can get better as the season progresses, or can we expect to see the DBs continually giving up big chunks of yardage through the air every Sunday?


CB Fernando Bryant
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
NC:
Even before the season started, there were rumblings that the Lions would have to outscore their opponents. The team and coaching staff hoped (and continue to have faith) that the defensive line would create enough pressure to alleviate the concerns of a no-name secondary. As witnessed in Philadelphia, if the D-line can not create pressure, the opposition has the ability to have a field day.

The Lions will continue to struggle against well-established offensive lines and quarterbacks that can take advantage of the situation. Can every offense hang 56 on Detroit? No. But expect many shootouts throughout the regular season.

JC: The Lions got off to a surprising 2-0 start and were making some noise as a potential sleeper candidate in the NFC, but then they were throttled by the Eagles in Week 3 to the tune of a 56-21 embarrassment. Can they be as good as they were in the early going, are they as bad as they showed in Philadelphia, or is the truth somewhere in between?

NC:
Probably somewhere in between. It is entirely possible that the game against Philadelphia was a fluke; they were on the road against a wounded and hungry team that still has the talent to contend for the post-season. However, they could have also been completely exposed, providing a blueprint for annihilation against the remainder of their competition.

A home game against a division rival with a stifling defense might ultimately determine the path the Lions will take for the remainder of 2007.

To read Part III of Behind Enemy Lines, Click Here. To go back and read Part I, where John answers five questions from Nate, Click Here.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. Nate Caminata is the Publisher of RoarReport.com.

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