Ready. Set. Go

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Justin Vanfulpen - LionsFans.com

In tonight's game there will be a lot of different players in and out of the Lions lineup. The starters will just get a small amount of work, playing maybe the first quarter and then you will see back-ups and other players trying to show something to make the 53-man roster.

"First of all, any game we are in, we want to win. The guys that are fighting for jobs will be the one's that will win the game for us at the end of the day,” said Marty Mornhinweg. “We put a lot of time and effort in on individual and unit plays and we know exactly what we want to see out of those. We are really trying to use this as an evaluation period for the players that are trying to make this team."

The quarterback position, like always, will be a key to the Lions success this season. Charlie Batch will only play maybe the first quarter and then be replaced by Jim Harbaugh in the second quarter with Cory Sauter after him. We might see rookie Mike McMahon after Sauter, but he could have to wait until next week before he sees his first real game action. The Lions' quarterbacks will run the newly installed West Coast offense for the first time tonight, and this will be a good test for them.

"I'm excited to get out there and test what we've been practicing this past off-season on a different-look defense,” said Batch. “Game situations always give you the best evaluation and I think we can do nothing but learn from this upcoming game. Afterwards, we will break down the film and work our way through this. We have a long way to go, but I can tell everyone is very excited to get this thing underway."

Lions' coaches would like to get the all 4 quarterback in this gam,e but it might not be possible.

"We would like to get all four quarterbacks in and get a taste in the first game and see how they handle that. The three things we look for in the quarterback is No.1 decision-making—they have to make good decisions on each and every play. No. 2 is timing. Every play we run is based upon timing and they have to execute that. Thirdly, when executing, accuracy is so critical. We have to make sure they are throwing for high-percentage completions in order for us to be successful,” said Lions quarterback coach Kevin Higgins.

Besides the quarterback position, another key component in the West Coast offense is the running back position. The Lions know that James Stewart will be the starter and he had a very successful season last year with over 1,000 yards rushing -- but what has impressed coach Mornhinweg is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. But possibly the best competition that has taken place in training camp has been for the 2 back-up running back spots. Sedrick Irvin looks like he is the leader of the pack with Lamont Warren second and followed behind by Reuben Drougns and Amp Lee.

"Sedrick has shown up in this camp so I'm pleased by that,” Mornhinweg said. “As we all know, running backs as well as linemen, get a big evaluation during the preseason games. They are preparing hard and Sedrick is. He's had a wonderful camp; he's really catching the ball out of the backfield well. He's a physical runner and he does have a little 'shake and bake' so he's right on line."

But look for all three backs, plus Stewart, to get some work tonight. Amp Lee might not play because of an injured hamstring and he might have to wait until next week to get to show his ability, but that could put him behind farther then he all ready is.

The Lions' offensive line is the key to both the quarterbacks and the running backs, and this group is young and banged-up. Guard Stockar McDougle will miss tonight's game due to a hamstring injury, and tackle Aaron Gibson has missed a few practices because he is still trying to recover from off season shoulder surgery but will start tonight’s game.

"We just have to get guys healthy to get ready to play the game," offensive line coach Carl Mauck said. "There's a lot of competition going on. We are young and we have guys with ability, but they just have to learn how to play. So, the young guys will get a lot of playing time this week."

First-round draft pick Jeff Backus will be a large key to the offensive line in 2001, and needs to get a lot of work in the pre-season.

Another banged up group is the wide receivers; Herman Moore and Germane Crowell have missed some time in training camp and won’t play tonight. Johnnie Morton and Larry Foster will start, and look for fifth-round draft pick Scotty Anderson to get a lot of playing time tonight since he has been one of the more impressive guys this training camp. Another receiver that has been impressive this training camp has been Desmond Howard, so look for him also to get some work tonight at the receiver position.

On defense, the Lions will be with out three starters, Luther Elliss out with an injured elbow, which will cause him to miss most if not the whole preseason, but he says the defense is ready to go.

“We are ready to go. Anytime you think about playing a game, it gets everyone fired up, even if it's only a preseason game,” said Elliss. “Our defense has made a few key transactions in the off-season and I think it will make all the difference in the world."

Two other starters will miss tonight game as well, Tracy Scroggins, and Bryant Westbrook. Scroggins has a sore knee, and Westbrook is out until at least the opener at Green Bay with an Achilles injury. But the defense is experienced and that gives them an edge over the offense.

"I am excited to see how this defense will perform,” said Robert Porcher. “Most of us have been together now for five or six years. The experience we now have on defense should definitely put us over the edge. Now it's time to just get out there and play some football."

There will be some battles for a position here or a position there, but the defense is pretty much set going in to the opener in Green Bay.

"Our defense is pretty solid heading into the preseason game against Cincinnati,” said Mornhinweg. “We have some veteran players on our defense across the board that have played, know how to work on the field, know how to prepare in the classroom and know how to learn and pick up the system fast."

Since this will be Marty Mornhinweg’s first game as a head football coach in the NFL, he is very excited for it to get under way.

"I am ready for our first preseason game Friday vs. Cincinnati,” said Mornhinweg. This will be the first time many aspects of our team have worked together in live game situations. Though not every portion of our schemes are installed, it will be an opportunity to see the offense, defense and special teams in game action. It also gives the coaching staff a chance to see how we work together as well. And we open the exhibition season in front of a home crowd at the Silverdome, which is always fun."


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