First Look: Detroit

Here's the "First Look," your weekly source for news about the Bucs' upcoming opponent. Today's edition takes a look at the Detroit Lions as they're coming off a bye week. Get in-depth analysis and position grades through five games, plus a peek at how that win affects the Lions this week. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

Running back Tatum Bell says his trade demand was overblown, and the Lions are keeping him. But he is frustrated by his lack of carries -- and says he isn't the only one upset about the Lions' lack of a running game.

"We run the ball all throughout the week, and we get in games, for some reason, we don't run it," Bell said. "So like I said, it's frustrating for all the backs, not just me. (Kevin Jones), we feel the same way. The line. Everybody. But coach calls the plays. We've just got to execute the plays."

Bell spent his first three NFL seasons with Denver, a running team. He rushed for 1,025 yards last season. Then the Lions traded for him in the offseason, at least in part because they needed insurance because Jones had a bad foot injury. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz is famous for his passing attack.

"In Denver, it was more balanced, and Martz's style is just basically passing first to set up the run," Bell said. "Out in Denver it was vice versa. So you knew going into a game you were going to at least get 25 touches. The backs at least all together were at least going to get 25, 30 touches. But going into a game out here, you never know how many carries you're going to get as a back. It's frustrating, man."

Bell had 15 carries for 87 yards in the opener Sept. 9 at Oakland. He has had 29 carries for 95 yards in the four games since.

In the Lions' last game, a 34-3 loss Oct. 7 at Washington, Bell had four carries for 15 yards in the first half. He didn't touch the ball in the second half, as Jones had 11 carries for 48 yards and two catches for 17 yards.

Bell said he was "a little disappointed." He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

"It's frustrating being a contract year and stuff like that," Bell said. "You want to put a show on."

Asked if he or his agent had asked for a trade, as ESPN reported Friday, Bell said: "I mean, you know, we brought it up. But it wasn't really just demanding a trade or nothing like that. The media blew it up. Well, ESPN blew it up. So I'm here. I'm going to be helping the team, and that's all the matters."

Bell said his agent, Jeffrey Griffin, acted on his own.

Asked if the ideal situation would be somewhere else where he was the guy, Bell said: "I feel like I'm still the guy. I'm just not getting as many carries as I hoped to get."

Bell said he was approaching practice as if he were the starter, because no one had said anything otherwise. But Jones' health continues to improve, and T.J. Duckett appears ready to return from a high ankle sprain. Head coach Rod Marinelli was non-committal about the rotation for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.

"We'll probably let that work out a little bit during the week," Marinelli said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Lions hung a big, blue banner in their field house listing their 2007 captains -- QB Jon Kitna, C Dominic Raiola, DE Cory Redding, LB Ernie Sims and K Jason Hanson. "It's just something I wanted to start this year," Marinelli said. "Each year we'll have our captains up. Recognizing them is a powerful thing." Will the banners ring around the indoor practice field? "I think so, yeah," Marinelli said. "I don't know if I'll live that long."

--Freezing kickers is en vogue around the NFL, but Marinelli might not follow the trend if given the opportunity. "Here's the thing: I'm a guy who always looks at the flip side of everything," Marinelli said. "The first guy who calls timeout and (the kicker) misses it and then makes the second one, bad shape. It's part of the job. You've got to be smart with it. Know the kind of kicker, how many times he's kicked, how many times he's kicked off, the fatigue of the leg. Know what his length is, how far he can hit it from. I don't know if you want to freeze him at a 53-yarder."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Calvin Johnson, who has had a sore lower back, "worked pretty good" Monday, coach Rod Marinelli said.

--LB Alex Lewis, who has had a hamstring injury, "ran around a little bit" Monday, coach Rod Marinelli said.

--CB Keith Smith, who has an ankle injury, did not practice Monday. His status is uncertain.

--RT Jonathan Scott said he had not been told anything about replacing George Foster as the starter.

--WR Devale Ellis, on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury, probably will end up on injured reserve, coach Rod Marinelli said.

REPORT CARD AFTER 5 GAMES

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- The Lions have put up some staggering statistics. They were the NFL's third-ranked passing team heading into the bye. At times, they have looked as if they can move the ball at will through the air. But some of the statistics are skewed: Offensive coordinator Mike Martz passes too much, perhaps, and the Lions have thrown trying to dig out of deep holes. They might have been exposed in their last game, a 34-3 loss at Washington, when the Redskins rushed four, dropped seven into coverage and neutralized the Lions' passing attack. A glaring problem: The Lions have allowed 27 sacks.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Lions haven't run the ball consistently. The question is whether they can't or won't. When Washington kept seven men in coverage, daring the Lions to run, Detroit threw anyway. This will be a pass-first offense, but the Lions need to run the ball better for a variety of reasons -- to keep the rush at bay, to give the defense a breather, to put teams away in the fourth quarter. As Kevin Jones continues his comeback from a bad foot injury, his role should increase and the running game might improve.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Lions' Tampa Two scheme is a bend-but-don't-break defense. The Lions want to give up short passes, avoid big plays and force the opponent to self-destruct. They have given up a lot of yards while making nine interceptions, an impressive total. So it's going according to plan, right? Not exactly. The pass rush has been inconsistent -- and sometimes non-existent -- and the secondary hasn't covered well.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Lions play a one-gap system, and generally they have been disciplined. But they have had trouble tackling at times, especially against some of the better running backs. Ernie Sims is an animal, all over the field. Paris Lenon has improved at middle linebacker. Boss Bailey needs to make more of an impact on the strong side.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-plus -- The Lions have done some good things. Shaun Rogers already has blocked two field goals. But K Jason Hanson hasn't been as automatic as usual, the kickoff coverage unit has struggled (especially when it allowed a 97-yard touchdown return to Devin Hester) and the Lions haven't settled on a kick returner since releasing Eddie Drummond in training camp. It says something that the Lions brought back reserve LB Donte Curry, a special teams standout, after cutting him Sept. 1.

COACHING: B -- The bottom line is that the Lions have won three games, when they won three games all of last season. They have a winning record. They have improved in coach Rod Marinelli's second season. But they have lost two of their last three games, and both losses were blowouts, casting a shadow over their victories. Marinelli hasn't challenged calls well. Martz has made some puzzling moves. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry and special teams coordinator Stan Kwan have work to do.


Bucs Blitz Top Stories