REPORT CARD AFTER 3 GAMES
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- The Lions will have to improve in the passing game if they plan to maintain a presence in the NFC North race because the anticipated help from the running game - rookie Kevin Jones, in particular - has been slow developing. Except for the Philadelphia game where he was blitzed unmercifully, QB Joey Harrington has been more accurate and more productive, completing 59.6 percent of his throws with six TDs and two interceptions, good for a 91.1 passer rating. The loss of WR Charles Rogers (collarbone) for the season hurts but rookie WR Roy Williams (17 catches, 277 yards, 4 TDs) has arrived in a blaze of glory. Harrington needs protection and more help from WRs Tai Streets and Az-Zahir Hakim, as well as TEs Stephen Alexander and Casey FitzSimmons.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Jones, picked by some as a top rookie of the year candidate, got off to a slow start (101 yards on 31 carries) and suffered a high ankle sprain in the third game. He's likely to miss at least two or three more games, which limits the Lions big-play potential severely. Artose Pinner is a strong downhill runner and catches the ball well but isn't likely to go the distance; Shawn Bryson's 25-yard run is the longest of the first three games but he's not a game breaker.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- The loss of Pro Bowl CB Dre' Bly in the first game and his backup Andre Goodman has put a crimp in the Lions' pass defense, and they spent the bye week with a real bad taste in their mouths, thanks to the spanking they got from Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb. They're still not getting the pass rush they need from DE Kalimba Edwards and they don't do a lot of blitzing in coordinator Dick Jauron's defense. That means they have to do a lot in coverage; they'll improve with the return of Bly and Goodman, possibly Sunday at Atlanta.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- They haven't run into a LaDainian Tomlinson or a Jamal Lewis yet but they did a good job on Houston's Dominick Davis and have not been hurt badly in the running game. DTs Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson make it virtually impossible to run inside and the linebackers have done relatively well against the run, considering they're playing without OLB Boss Bailey (knee) and playing with young OLBS in James Davis and Teddy Lehman.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Eddie Drummond has been outstanding on KOR with a 99-yarder for a touchdown and a 73-yarder to set up a TD in the first three weeks, but he has had only three PR opportunities thanks to subpar blocking. The coverages have been good, except for a 56-yard punt return. P Nick Harris is averaging 44.0 yards. PK Jason Hanson has had only three field goal opportunities and missed a 47-yarder.
COACHING: B-minus -- The Lions were expected to be an improved team after winning only 10 of their previous 48 games and they are, but coach Steve Mariucci has been doing it under adverse circumstances without his best young linebacker (Bailey), his best cornerback (Bly) and last year's first-round draft pick (Charles Rogers). He has done a good job getting production out of the guys he has and improving Harrington.