It seems like every year, when NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue walks to the podium at the NFL Draft to announce the Detroit Lions' first pick, he's always calling the name of a wide receiver.
And as the Cowboys get
ready to face the Lions this Sunday, there's no doubt that Detroit's
big wide receivers -- Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams --
have the Cowboys' attention. But to listen to Dallas head coach Bill
Parcells and linebacker Bradie James tell it, ignoring the Lions'
running game could prove very costly.
Parcells called the Lions' trio of running backs -- Kevin James, Artose Pinner and Shawn Bryson -- is as about good as any in the NFL, in part
because of the way Detroit head coach Steve Mariucci rotates them.
"Kevin Jones is the lead guy, and he's very talented," Parcells said,
"and Pinner and Bryson are very effective changes of pace."
James said that while playing the Lions means preparing for three ball
carriers, that doesn't necessarily mean the preparation is any more
difficult than it is for a team with one primary back who handles the
majority (or all) of the carries for a team.
"It's not harder," James said, "because you know what you're going to
get. Kevin Jones is a great runner, a really good talent. Artose Pinner
is a really effective change-of-pace guy, and Bryson is a good runner
and a really good blocker. If you blitz when he's in there, he can
knock you out. He's one of the best blockers in the league. He's kind
of like (Washington's) Clinton Portis -- people don't think of Portis
as a blocker, but he can really hit you, and when Bryson hits you, he
can make you eat your teeth."
James said he expects the Lions to mix up two-back sets with
single-back sets, which they will use when they bring three and four
wide receivers into the game.
With all the offensive talent Detroit has acquired in recent years,
skeptics have questioned why the Lions haven't put up more points. But
James said they are capable of doing just that.
"The thing about football is that it's definitely a team sport," he
said. "Once everybody (on the Detroit offense) realizes their roles,
they'll start gelling. In their last game (Sunday's 29-21 win over
Arizona), that's the closest they've been in a while to gelling.
They're really close.
"You look at that offense, and they've got good players at every
position, especially at the skill positions. If (quarterback Jeff)
Garcia is healthy, I expect he'll play, but whether he or (Joey)
Harrington is in there really doesn't matter, because they play a very
similar style. It's not like last week, when (Mike) McMahon came in for
Donovan (McNabb) -- those guys are really different players. But Garcia
and Harrington do a lot of the same things, so it really doesn't matter
which one plays."
James said the Detroit wideouts are the "scariest" part of the Lions'
offense, but said the key will be limiting the effectiveness of the
Detroit ground game.
"We have to shut down the run," he said. "If we don't stop the run, we
don't have a chance. If you allow a team to run, you don't have a
chance to be effective."
RANCH EXCLUSIVE: On The Run
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