Behind Enemy Lines: Detroit

In this edition of "Behind Enemy Lines," Roarreport.com's Nate Camanita answers questions about the Lions' team identity, the play of LB Ernie Sims and the Lions' pass rush in this exclusive feature.

Matthew Postins: How close is this team to finding an identity? It seems one week they score a bunch of points, and the next they lay an egg. Is this a case where they don't have the talent yet, or a case where the team hasn't learned how to win yet?

Nate Camanita: I think it's a little bit of both. Detroit certainly has the talent at the skill positions to compete with any team in the league, but the offensive line has had difficult adjusting to an offensive scheme that passes on nearly every down. Because of that, opposing teams have found that a surefire way to shut down the Lions' offense is to put relentless pressure on Kitna. The solution is two fold, because it doesn't allow Kitna and his receivers to establish rhythm and keeps them off the field. Still, the Lions are a very young team and look every part of a .500 team. That might not put them into an "elite" caliber, but it's certainly a growth from where they've been the past decade. In the meantime, they'll continue to improve.

Matthew Postins: Jon Kitna predicted 10 wins this year. What did that do for this organization, in terms of raising the expectations? And why is Kitna such a good fit for this offense?

Nate Camanita: Kitna didn't necessarily predict 10 wins (as many major media outlets would lead you to believe), but he did set it as a benchmark for success. Kitna's message was clear: we have the ability to move the ball, and there's no reason why the Detroit Lions shouldn't win 10 games. With a franchise cloaked in failure, it was both essential and absolutely justified for Kitna to say what he did. On the field, he can back it up. While offensive coordinator Mike Martz is notorious for turning water into wine, Kitna has the intelligence and accuracy to become one of Martz's better quarterbacks. If he had worked with Kitna a few years earlier, this team could be even more explosive, but Kitna's age might be his eventual downfall.

Matthew Postins: The pass rush is everything in the Cover 2 defense. I heard Rod Marinelli was demanding a better rush from his front four, but they have 14 sacks so far this year (better than the Bucs). Is there a problem up front?

Nate Camanita: The Tampa 2 demands consistent pressure, and that is what troubled the Lions against teams like Philadelphia and Washington. Jason Campbell is certainly not a future hall-of-famer, but Detroit made him look Joe Theismann a couple of weeks back. A suspect secondary in this defensive scheme will always look terrible without pressure from the front four, because you are essentially leaving the corners to fend for themselves. The addition of Dewayne White has certainly helped the group, but with Shaun Rogers and Cory Redding in the middle, the defensive line needs to show dramatic improvement if the Lions hope to reach 8 wins by the end of the year.

Matthew Postins: Who will start at running back this week ? Tatum Bell or Kevin Jones? Who is the better option for this offense, and if it's Jones, how is his foot? Is he 100 percent now?

Nate Camanita: It hasn't been determined, but if common thought prevails, Kevin Jones will see the bulk of the action. Jones isn't yet 100-percent, but has looked significantly more apt than Bell when given a consistent amount of carries. Bell, meanwhile, is a good change of pace back, but he has lost the gig to Jones, who is just too powerful and too talented to leave on the bench. Jones is also a better pass catcher than Bell, and the Lions would like to have a reliable safety valve should Kitna face pressure in the pocket.

Matthew Postins: This linebacking corps looks as if it could be awfully good in a few years. Is this trio a good fit for the Cover 2? How has Ernie Sims progressed in his second year with the Lions?

Nate Camanita: Sims is easily the most productive and talented linebacker on the field, but the defense needs a strong middle linebacker (see: Brian Urlacher), yet Paris Lenon nor Teddy Lehman have looked strong in their opportunities. Boss Bailey has made plays this year, but occasionally gets lost on the field. What this core does have is speed, which should bode well as they continue to adjust under Joe Barry's scheme.


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