Holmes' Job Could Be In Jeopardy

Is veteran linebacker Earl Holmes fighting for his job? Lions' insider Mike Fowler evaluates the linebacker position and the progression of Detroit's more youthful linebackers. Also, McMahon on his way out? Caponomics with the offensive line, and much more.

(ALLEN PARK) - Lions second round pick Teddy Lehman impressed Detroit's coaching staff with his play at the weak side linebacker position in last weekend's mini camp.

But Detroit raised some eyebrows by taking more snaps than expected at the middle linebacker spot. Detroit is looking to keep speed and pass coverage ability on the field on every down to improve the team's defensive flexibility.

With incumbent Earl Holmes mediocre showing last season (97 tackles and 2.0 sacks) at the middle linebacker position, Detroit might be ready to pass the torch to a younger player as they prepare to make a run for the playoffs in 2005.

"If you recall, a year ago, we were looking at Barrett Green in the middle," said coach Steve Mariucci. "If you're going to experiment, this is the time to do it, in this first mini-camp or the June mini-camp and we think he can potentially be an inside 'mike' linebacker. We know he can play outside, but we're wanting to look also at James Davis at the weak-backer and Alex Lewis, too. It gives us a chance to see other guys at the 'will'"

While Lewis is likely to end up mostly on special teams, Davis is the key. If Davis can stay healthy and show the ability to make plays at the 'will', Lehman could become the team's starting middle linebacker.

That would make Holmes expendable, likely after June 1st. Detroit wants to add some players at key positions like tight end and guard from players released after June 1st.

Releasing Holmes would free up $1.3 million from the cap, a substantial sum if Detroit can find a comparable player at a cheaper price. They also have a younger backup in Wali Rainer who had trouble comprehending former defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer's system.

McMAHON'S NAVY?: Is Mike McMahon on the way out after expressing his frustration in the media? Not exactly. It is not uncommon for players who are stuck, the way McMahon is, to express their frustration.

Realistically though, the fourth-year backup knows that an injury to starter Joey Harrington could mean extended playing time for him. No team is going to hand McMahon a starting job. If Harrington doesn't get it done this season, McMahon will get a shot regardless of what some reporters are saying. Mariucci is willing to give McMahon playing time because realistically, Detroit is pointing towards 2005 as the year they will make a serious run for the division championship, not 2004.

CAPONOMICS: Detroit wants to lock up their starting offensive linemen, like Stockar McDougle and Jeff Backus for several years to come to avoid a "Jeff Hartings situation" in 2005.

If Detroit is successful in getting the two young tackles signed to cap friendly long term deals, the team will be all set to address their most pressing long-term needs in the 2005 draft early - tight end, defensive end, safety, and punter.

That would set Detroit up well to make a move at legitimately challenging for the 2005 conference championship.

CAPTAIN FIFE: Jason Fife, the undrafted free agent quarterback from Oregon, had a surprisingly good showing in the Lions weekend mini camp. Fife appeared to know, inside and out, the plays he ran in camp and showed a strong arm with the ability to hit the receiver just as he came out of the break. While it was only three days of shirt and shorts drills, Fife could be a candidate for Detroit's practice squad.

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