SCOUTING REPORT

The Detroit Lions don't appear to present much of a problem for the Dolphins in Sunday's regular season opener at Pro Player Stadium. But, make no mistake, this is a team that shouldn't be judged solely on its 2-14 record of a year ago.

The Lions have made some changes since last season, most notably in the secondary where they have added veteran cornerback Eric Davis and former Dolphins safety Brian Walker.

Those two should help a pass defense that ranked a paltry 25th in the NFL last season. The Lions weren't much better against the run, finishing 23rd in the league.

The Dolphins get to unveil their new offense against Detroit, something they didn't do entirely during the preseason.

"We've shown a good amount," said quarterback Jay Fiedler. "There is still some stuff that we have worked on in practice that we haven't put out there in a game, that we want to save for the regular season. I would say that we've showed about 80 percent of what we're doing."

Among the new wrinkles on offense, we can look for more passes to the tight end and fullback (that was already known), but also look for some reverses, something the Dolphins practically never did under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

The Dolphins have a lot of weapons on offense and will try to use as many of them against the Lions.

Ricky Williams said this week he anticipated a difficult time running the ball against the Lions defense because of Detroit's front four. And indeed the strength of the Detroit defense — and probably the entire team — is the defensive line, with guys like Robert Porcher, Shaun Rogers and Luther Elliss.

Those guys will present a good challenge for the Dolphins' new-look offensive line.

Even with Davis and Walker, the Dolphins should have some success through the air against a veteran secondary. Look for Fiedler to take a couple of deep shots in the direction of Chris Chambers.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions will start Mike McMahon at quarterback. He is simply babysitting the position until rookie quarterback Joey Harrington is ready to take over as the starter.

The biggest threat McMahon poses is with his scrambling ability, which is going to put some pressure on the defensive ends to keep him inside the pocket.

The Lions do have speed at wide receiver with the likes of Bill Schroeder and Az-Zahir Hakim, but neither of them can be considered elite receivers.

Detroit has a solid back in James Stewart, whose biggest problem throughout his NFL career has been staying healthy. This week, for example, he is nursing a minor knee injury, though he is expected to play.

In the kicking game, the guy to watch is veteran punt returner Desmond Howard, who certainly has the ability to break long returns. This is where Dolphins punter Mark Royals' ability to get good hang time will come in handy.


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