Analysis: 5 Truths About the Detroit Lions

Whether it is R.O.Y Williams, the lack of safety depth or the lack of confidence Steve Mariucci has in his offense, Lions' insider Mike Fowler has found five truth's about the 2004 Detroit Lions. Analysis inside.

(ALLEN PARK) - The Lions crushing 30-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles proved these five things I know are true:

1. The Lions need some big time help at the safety position
2. Even with three #1 draft picks and a #2 starting, the offensive line still has problems
3. The coaching staff doesn't fully trust the offense
4. Nick Harris isn't the answer at punter
5. The Lions are a year away from being a real playoff contender.

1. When the Philadelphia Eagles saw the lack of range exhibited by the Lions safety tandem of Brock Marion and Bracey Walker, they said "Bombs away." Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb went on to complete passes of 53, 47 and 23 yards against the pair who had trouble ranging from sideline-to-sideline.

That is imperative in a two-deep zone. So Detroit has to decide how to handle the problem with two safeties on the wrong side of 30. They can add some talent through trade, free agency or the draft. They could have had Donovan Darius of Jacksonville for a second round pick this offseason. They've passed on the likes of Roy Williams, Bob Sanders, Troy Polamalu, Sean Taylor and Deon Grant over the last few years in the draft. If Detroit is going to take the next step, they've got to be able to patrol the deep zones and scare some players from entering those areas.

2. Stockar McDougle struggled against speed rusher Jevon Kearse (who doesn't) and tackle Jeff Backus isn't becoming the top notch road grading tackle Detroit envisioned. Still, both are steady but unspectacular. But is that what you expect from a pair of #1 draft picks? Damien Woody (#1 by New England) was supposed to team with McDougle to form Detroit's 'go-to' run side. While Kevin Jones has gotten a couple of good rips, there has been nothing consistent.

Meanwhile second round pick Dominic Raiola has improved, but still doesn't look like the franchise center of the past like Kevin Glover.

Why does Detroit have perpetual problems fielding a solid chain moving offensive line? Other teams seem to be able to put together solid fronts without any #1 picks being spent. What do they do about it?

Detroit could try experimenting. They could move Woody to the other side next to Backus and see what happens. They could insert Matt Joyce into the starting lineup in place of current starter Dave Loverne and see if they get a push. Or they could elect to do nothing and hope that playing together for a few more games cures the problem.

While Backus is signed on for a few years, McDougle's contract is up and Detroit is currently negotiating an extension. Detroit doesn't want to lose first round picks, but with young project Kelly Butler in reserve, Detroit may elect to let Stockar walk. Does that solve the problem? Not unless Butler is better. A veteran free agent may be needed....again.

3. What's with the bend but don't break starts by the Detroit OFFENSE?

Against the Houston Texans, the Lions looked like a boxer jabbing for an opening. It took until the second half for Detroit to finally open things up and start airing it out. By the time they tried this against the Eagles, they were down 21-0.

Detroit's coaching staff is playing it close to the vest. They want to stay in the game, limit mistakes early and then open it up late. This is a great strategy on the road, but at home, why not open it up.

It's a sign that Detroit's coaching staff doesn't trust the offense not to make the big mistake. With so many youngsters playing key roles that understandable on both sides of the ball, but when you're going against an elite team like the Philadelphia Eagles, wouldn't you rather see 'em go down with both guns blazing?

4. I know that Harris is having a much better year than he did last year. His per punt average is respectable. So is it just me? Why don't I trust him to give Detroit good field position on a consistent basis.

A great punter is a weapon, a good punter can change field position consistently, a mediocre punter just moves the ball out of harm's way more often than not. If Detroit is going to be a Super Bowl contender, why not go after a weapon as opposed to a settling for good enough at this position? Usually a fourth round pick is all that is necessary to grab a great collegiate punter. That might solve the problem permanently.

5. The Eagles game and more like it to come show the Lions are at least a year away. Still, there's a lot to like about the Lions.

Roy Williams is a pro bowl receiver in the making. Charles Rogers will be too, in about a season. Kevin Jones' progress is going to be slower with the ankle sprain and the lack of some real holes in the offensive line. Still, the pieces are in place.

The Lions linebacking corps will be solid next season with Teddy Lehman, Boss Bailey, Alex Lewis, James Davis all with another year of experience. The corners are strong. James Hall is a solid pass rusher. Shaun Rogers is a pro bowl tackle, Dan Wilkinson is a solid starter. The Lions should be able to fill the holes in the draft and through free agency.

A defensive end, a safety, a backup quarterback and a punter through the draft; two offensive linemen and another veteran playmaking linebacker through free agency.

Being a year away isn't bad, if you do what you need to in the off-season. With the momentum Detroit has gained from two solid drafts and a good free agency period, let's hope they don't play it safe this off-season. What a shame to be a year away again next year.

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