Upstart Vick Will Give Lions New Challenge

If the Detroit Lions passed a test in last Sunday's loss at Chicago, they'll be given a whole new type of challenge in this weekend's home opener against Philadelphia's Michael Vick. Notes and quotes inside ...

Last Sunday, the Detroit defense didn't exactly prevent Chicago's offense from tallying yards at will. They did one better: preventing it from making multiple trips to the end zone, despite a Bears' offense that enjoyed great field position most of the contest.

They managed an impressive goal-line stand in the second half, thwarting Chicago on four consecutive downs, kept the opponent's run game in check, and spent most of the day harrassing Jay Cutler.

Had Detroit won on Calvin Johnson's controversial catch, a defense that was considered the league's worst in 2009 would have been deserving of the game ball.

Rookie Ndamukong Suh and veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch, newcomers to the defense in 2010, tallied one sack and 11 tackles, respectively, and were responsible for much of that success.

"I thought that, not only did they rush the passer well, but they did a good job in the run game," said coach Jim Schwartz this week. "A lot of that has to do with what the d-line was able to do in disrupting.

"There were a lot of those situations where it came from penetration up front. I think that pass rush and things like that generally tend to overshadow plays in the run game."

Added Schwartz, "I think there are still things that we can clean up. We had a couple opportunities to finish sacks and Culter ran out of them. That's not going to do this week with Vick back there."

And therein lies the next challenge.

Vick, the mobile, defensive nightmare, will start in place of injured Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb (concussion). If beating Cutler's arm was challenging, Vick's legs will quite literally give Detroit's high-priced defensive line a run for its money.

Vick had an exemplary second-half performance against an unsuspecting Green Bay defense. He scrambled for 23 yards on his first play, and ripped of chunks of 9, 16, and 33 yards later in the game. He also completed 16 of his 24 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown -- 278 total yards of offense in just two quarters of action.

The Eagles still lost, 27-20, but a quarterback controversy in Philly was born.

"He's scary; he looks like the Michael Vick of old – who's one of the best athletes in the game," said Lions' defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham after Thursday's practice. "He's really got a rhythm. Green Bay was shell-shocked. I don't know how much they prepared for him."

Schwartz still considers Vick the same dynamic quarterback that he was prior to his prison-provoked league impasse. Vick returned to the league last year, seemingly eons away from the star status he enjoyed as Atlanta's starting signal caller.

The Lions plan is to take away Vick's aerial options first, worry about his mobility later, and just hope that his career revival doesn't begin at Ford Field.

Schwartz didn't reveal whether or not the Lions would use outside linebacker Julian Peterson as a "spy," rather, keeping the attention on what the defense could control. However, the team welcomed the return of starting middle linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin) to practice on Thursday. Levy missed last Sunday's contest. If he can continue to practice, he'll be in Sunday's line-up, and give Detroit another body to throw at Philadelphia's No. 7.

"(Vick) brings a little different dimension, but they don't really change their passing game a whole lot in there so we can work the passing game," said Schwartz. "It's a little bit different with a left-handed quarterback. It's a little bit different with his mobility and where he's going to escape, but their passing game stays similar and we're already working a lot of those specialty packages so, really it doesn't change a whole lot."

Cunningham wasn't as modest of the concern Vick promotes.

"He's not just a quarterback, so the game changes in your preparation," he said. "You stay up late at night, and you get up early in the morning.

"If you look at our coaching staff, they all look like zombies today and he's putting a lot of pressure on us to prepare for him."

Notebook (TheSportsXchange helped contribute to these notes):

  • DE Cliff Avril (knee, pinky) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. His return remains questionable, but the Lions have hope he will return for Sunday's tilt.
  • S Louis Delmas (groin) returned to practice on Thursday along with Levy. Delmas' groin being as tender as it is, his practice will remain limited this season.
  • RB Jahvid Best practiced despite a toe injury sustained in Chicago.
  • RB Kevin Smith, inactive last week, continues to practice. The Lions won't say whether or not he's shown enough to be activated this week.

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