A consensus among the Detroit Lions' coaching staff, owners, players, and fans was for the young Lions to show progress at some point in the season. After back-to-back dominating losses courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears, a 1-5 start, and lack of rookie production, the Lions organization was already looking to the 2004-05 season. But finally, at the halfway mark against the Oakland Raiders, the Lion rookies took a collective step forward and hushed some doubters. They forced turnovers, broke up and stuffed plays, made key tackles, and contributed a significant part to the team's second victory of the season.
Take heed though, the remaining eight games will be a roller coaster for the Lion cubs. They will still miss tackles and blocks, drop passes, make bad reads, blow coverages, and get pushed around. However, as the first year of the Steve Mariucci tenure advances, their pros will outweigh their cons.
SLB - Boss Bailey - For the second consecutive week, Boss lead the defense in tackles, recording six. His progression can be measured further than just by his tackle total, though. Boss has looked better in pass coverage, reading plays, and utilizing his speed. Much of his improvement can be attributed through an ever-rising confidence level as the season progresses. His tackling technique has considerably improved and he is hitting harder, but this area is still considered Boss' primary weakness. For the season, Boss is fourth on the team with 55 tackles. He has recorded one sack and has three passes defensed.
MLB - James Davis - Davis played very well in pass coverage. He defended two passes deep in coverage during an Oakland two-minute drill at the end of the first half. Davis actually had a chance at two interceptions, but dropped them both. After this performance, Davis will likely see significantly more time on passing situations. Because of his size (6-1, 221) and speed (4.6-40), many feel Davis has the ability to play at safety, especially with the lack of production and depth at the position. He did line up at the position in college, but would serve better as coverage MLB for the Lions because the skill is not a strength of either current MLB Earl Holmes or Wali Rainer.
"He made some plays and had a chance to make other plays, and he's going to do that. Sooner or later he's going to make those plays and be a difference maker like Boss (Bailey) is becoming, a real fine football player," said Mariucci of Davis.
FS - Terrence Holt - In only his second game as a professional, Holt turned several heads. Because of injuries in the secondary, he saw significant playing time as the nickel cornerback and safety and took full advantage recording two tackles and an interception, and defending two passes. Holt made his biggest plays at key points in the contest. The first was the breakup of a pass in Jerry Rice's direction on a third and two in Lions' territory. Holt actually had a very good chance at making the interception, but like Davis, dropped it. On the sixth play of Oakland's final drive, Holt broke on a Rick Mirer pass in the direction of Rice and intercepted the first ball of his career, sealing the Raiders' fate, but more importantly, a Lions' victory. Despite the Raiders' seasonlong struggles, this was supposed to be a big game for the three-headed receiving monster of Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Jerry Porter. Holt, who was frequently responsible for covering the greatest receiver of all time or an explosive youngster, played a very commendable game and will see much more playing time for the remainder of the season.
"We moved him from inactive to special teams to boom, you're playing corner quite a bit and he came up with a big play at the end to finish the game off," said an impressed Mariucci of the young free safety.
DE/DT - Cory Redding - The third round choice was activated for the second time this season because veteran defensive end Robert Porcher was unable to go due to a nagging hip injury. Redding saw around 15 snaps, but was not in on any plays. Fellow defensive ends Kalimba Edwards and James Hall played so well, that Redding was unable to get an adequate amount of playing time.
CB - Rod Babers - Babers was inactive for the game because of a separated shoulder he suffered last week in Chicago on the opening kickoff. The good news is that the shoulder popped back into place a few minutes after the injury occurred. It is still very tender; therefore, the coaching staff is taking it day-by-day with Babers. It is still uncertain if he will play in this weekend's match against the Bears.
RB - Artose Pinner - The fourth round choice has been taken off of the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. LionsFans.com has reported the team has three weeks to make a decision Pinner on whether or not to activate him. If they activate Pinner, the ball club must release a player to make room. Sources are pointing the ax at fellow rookie running back Avon Cobourne.
Other rookie news: Tight end Casey Fitzsimmons saw minimal playing time in the game on special teams and offense. He recorded no tackles or receptions. Receiver Charles Rogers' broken collarbone is healing on pace but there is no set timetable for his return. However, most reports have listed his as around four weeks.