Offense Flourished, while Defense Struggled

As the off-season draws to a close, we provide a brief inside slant of the Lions offense and defense

Offensively, the Lions got their house in order nicely during training camp and the pre-season. Defensively, they didn't even come close.

For every goal coach Steve Mariucci accomplished with his offense, it seems there was a corresponding short-circuit in the defense.

Offensively, quarterback Joey Harrington showed good signs of progress in growing into the job of leader and practitioner of the West Coast offense.

Defensively, pass rusher Kalimba Edwards showed no flair for getting to the quarterback and spent the last week on the sidelines with soreness in the groin area where he had two sports hernia surgeries the past year.

Offensively, the Lions' two promising young receivers - Charles Rogers and Roy Williams - progressed almost faster and better than anyone might have expected.

Defensively, the young linebackers - Teddy Lehman, James Davis and Alex Lewis - struggled to make plays and stay healthy.

Offensively, the Lions found the final piece of their line puzzle when journeyman David Loverne outperformed expectations and took over the left guard position.

Defensively, the end positions remained in a state of flux with James Hall moving back to right end, Cory Redding working inside and Robert Porcher likely to get more playing time at left end than originally anticipated.

Offensively, the Lions remained relatively healthy after rookie running back Kevin Jones recovered from a strained hamstring.

Defensively, starting strong side linebacker Boss Bailey had knee surgery and isn't expected back until at least October, possibly later.

And so it is the Lions go into the 2004 NFL regular season with several ongoing issues they had hoped to resolve during training camp and four preseason games.

Nevertheless, they should be improved over the team that floundered its way to a 5-11 record in 2003.

The presence of Williams and Jones - along with the maturing of Harrington and the addition of tight end threats Stephen Alexander and Casey FitzSimmons - is almost certain to elevate the Lions from the No. 32 position among NFL offenses last year.

And their defense - despite the lingering problems - is not in total disarray. With defensive tackles Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson playing side-by-side, the Lions will not be run on easily inside. And, in the secondary, Fernando Bryant has shown signs of playing with the same aggressive effectiveness that marked Dre' Bly's first year at cornerback in 2003.

The Lions still have holes to fill if they are to become contenders in the NFC North but they should at least work their way back to respectability this year. A 7-9 season would not be considered all bad. Anything over and above that would be cause for euphoria in Detroit.

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