Harrington developing

Joey Harrington clearly has impressed Marty Mornhinweg, though the Lions' head coach intentionally has downplayed his new quarterback's contributions. "I've told Joey I'm not going to heap a bunch of positives on him publicly," Mornhinweg said. "But if you put the rookie thing on him, he's played quarterback pretty damn well. In the quarterback position, you're thrown into a leadership role. Joey's handled everything on and off the field pretty well."


 
The Bills have the veteran Drew Bledsoe at quarterback; the Lions have the rookie Joey Harrington.

Bledsoe has a 98.7 passer rating, third-best in the NFL. Harrington's is 66.8, third from the bottom in the NFC.

Beyond that, however, there are similarities between the two QBs.

Bledsoe has sparked an offensive renaissance in Buffalo that has led the Bills to a 4-3 record. In four starts for Detroit, Harrington has helped the Lions break even, including a 2-1 record in their last three games.

He clearly has impressed Marty Mornhinweg, though the Lions' head coach intentionally has downplayed his new quarterback's contributions. "I've told Joey I'm not going to heap a bunch of positives on him publicly," Mornhinweg said. "But if you put the rookie thing on him, he's played quarterback pretty damn well. In the quarterback position, you're thrown into a leadership role. Joey's handled everything on and off the field pretty well."

Running back James Stewart, who gained 172 yards rushing in last week's victory over the Bears, was asked what impressed him about Harrington. "His demeanor, his nature," Stewart replied. "He's a guy with a lot of poise. I think he's going to be a good one. He definitely carries himself as if he's been in the league six or seven years. He's a gutsy guy. He likes to compete. He's been great for us."

More important than how his own teammates think about Harrington is what his opponents think, and what they might do against him. Two weeks ago, the Bills played another rookie first-round draft pick, Houston's David Carr, in a 31-24 Buffalo victory. Carr's 66.9 passer rating and overall statistics are remarkably close to Harrington's 66.8 - which includes completing 52.2 per cent of his passes, 6.35 yards per attempt, five touchdown passes and six interceptions.

Said Bills head coach Gregg Williams, "He has improved since the preseason." However, he continued, "Sometimes with a young quarterback we can maybe be effective in pre-snap disguises of things he hasn't seen."

Mornhinweg didn't seem to think that would be a problem for long. The coach said, "He's made some mistakes, but he won't make them again."

Still, Mornhinweg knows the impact a veteran such as Bledsoe can have. "He's the same player I remember from the last time we played him. He can really throw the football, he throws it accurately, he does it with people in his face. He handles a game well. He's one of a few big keys that directly influence the team's success."

That's the impact the Lions would like Harrington to have on their team.


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