Lions Insider: Midseason Grades Are In

At the midway point of the season, the Lions have given their fans something they haven't had in a long time: hope. At the same time, they've given their fans something they're very accustomed to: disappointment. Lions' insider Mike Fowler delivers his mid-season grades on several players, coaches and more.

(ALLEN PARK) - At the midway point of the season, the Lions have given their fans something they haven't had in a long time, hope. Fans can hope that Detroit actually can stay in the race and have a shot at a playoff berth.

At the same time, they've given their fans something they're very accustomed to, disappointment. Lions fans see their team playing well on the road, so they dress up in their finest Lions regalia to welcome their heroes home to Ford Field, only to watch them stink up the joint downtown.

What gives?

Even the Detroit players were at a loss to say what caused them to play as poorly as they did. Some said it was the growing pains of a young team, others said the team is pressing, trying to make a play. Whatever the reasons, the fans feel a little left out of the success Detroit has had getting to a 4-4 mark and are reflecting that with boos that rained down from the stands on Sunday.

Detroit if nothing else, is inconsistent, they look good one week, bad the next. That is a sign of a young team. With turnovers and big plays drying up for Detroit, it's up to the coaching staff to figure out new ways to win in the second half of the season.

QUARTERBACK JOEY HARRINGTON: C: Harrington has improved over last year's performance but would benefit more if Detroit could run the ball. His passer rating is much improved, but he throws too many balls in the turf or over receiver's heads. Still he's had some games where he was brilliant, some games where he was miserable.

FULLBACK CORY SCHLESINGER: INC: Schlesinger is getting a little long in the tooth. Can he continue to block and catch at a high level or is he on the decline? The second half of the season will go a long way to determining his future in Detroit.

RUNNING BACK KEVIN JONES: F: Jones just hasn't gotten it done. The offensive line gets some of the blame, but Jones hasn't hit holes and is showing a lack of vision. This isn't what you expect from a first round draft pick. Here's hoping that the second half is a lot better than first or else, some draftniks are going to start uttering the word, "bust".

WIDE RECEIVER ROY WILLIAMS: A: Williams has been just what Detroit's offense needs, a complete wideout. He can be a deep threat or he can go over the middle. Defenses are catching up to the big play part of Williams' game. He'll have to become more of a chunk receiver over the next eight weeks.

WIDE RECEIVER TAI STREETS: F: Streets, for whatever reason, hasn't give Detroit what they expected of a receiver seasoned in the west coast offense. Unless he comes on in the second half, his career as a Lion could be one-and-done.

TIGHT END STEPHEN ALEXANDER: D: Alexander hasn't gotten open consistently and hasn't blocked as well as expected. He has been banged up, but the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league. So far, a disappointment.

FLANKER: AZ HAKIM: C: Hakim had a great game against Washington and one hopes its the start of something. His deal runs out this year and while he's had some flashes, he's been hurt a lot and he's had some bad games. The last eight games will likely determine if he'll return next year.

TACKLE: JEFF BACKUS: C: Backus is solid in the passing game, but he and teammate Dave Loverne haven't opened many holes. Backus has never had a solid guard next to him, so he gets a bit of a hall pass.

GUARD: DAVE LOVERNE D: Loverne is a journeyman and he's played a little better than that. But his inability to run block is hampering Detroit's offensive attack. He'd be a good reserve, but not a starter.

CENTER: DOMINIC RAIOLA: D: Raiola hasn't used his tremendous athletic ability to his advantage the way he should. He hasn't been able to get push in the run game but appears to be improving as a pass blocker. Still, will it be enough to stay in Detroit on a new contract?

GUARD: DAMIEN WOODY: B: Woody has brought leadership and a steadying influence to the Detroit offensive front. His next job, instilling an attitude, will be tougher. Woody could slide over to center where he'd be a natural making calls and running the line, but then Detroit would need two guards again.

TACKLE STOCKAR MCDOUGLE: B: McDougle is developing into the franchise right tackle that Detroit hoped when they drafted him out of Oklahoma. He and Woody form Detroit's go-to side of the football when they are running the ball. A keeper.

END: JAMES HALL: B: Hall has provided a good deal of pressure from his right end side and is improving against the run. Detroit made a wise move when it re-signed this young blooming star

TACKLE: SHAUN ROGERS: A: Rogers is heading to Hawaii and he knows it. Still, he could ratchet up the intensity even more and become a perennial all-pro. Will Detroit overpay to keep the Big Baby or will they slap the franchise tag on him causing a winter of discontent. Whatever, he'll be a Lion for a long time. And a well paid one at that.

TACKLE: DAN WILKINSON: B: Wilkinson and Rogers form a solid interior tandem, but they are not invincible. They need to come to the field ready to dominate every game. He's still got something left in his tank.

END: CORY REDDING: C: Redding occasionally generates pass rush, but oftentimes is a bystander. Hopefully he'll continue to improve against the run, while occasionally getting to the passer

LINEBACKER: TEDDY LEHMAN: C: Typical for a rookie learning his way around the league. Lehman is pretty good in pass coverage, but overruns some plays and is out of position on some others. Still he looks like a playmaker.

LINEBACKER:EARL HOLMES B: A bounce back year appears to be on the horizon for Holmes after a disappointing 2003 season. He's showing leadership, heart and desire. He's getting older, but he isn't done yet.

LINEBACKER: JAMES DAVIS: B: Davis wasn't supposed to be this good, but he's developed quickly and is going to be a force in the future once he really figures out this game. The question: Who goes to the bench when Boss Bailey returns in a few weeks. Likely, it's Lehman

CORNER: DRE' BLY: C: It took Dre' a game or two to get back to his solid form after suffering an ankle injury. Still he's a leader in the locker room and his teammates feed off his intensity. Expect him to get back to "A" form in the second half.


SAFETY: BROCK MARION: C: Marion still has some range, skill and ability and is holding down the fort well. How much does he have left in the tank is the unknown.

SAFETY: BRACEY WALKER: C: Bracey gives you everything he has and that's been good enough so far. Like Marion, he's getting older so Detroit will have to bring in someone, maybe Terrence Holt here soon.

KEY RESERVES: KALIMBA EDWARDS: D: Maybe it isn't fair to say Detroit passed on Clinton Portis to take the prototype linebacker/end, but that's the inevitable comparison. Now that Edwards has lost his starting job, will he continue to be a Lion beyond this season is the question on most observers lips?

PUNTER: NICK HARRIS: F: Harris is a reflection of the Lions season: inconsistent. He'll be occasionally brilliant and then really put the defense in a hole. Can you tolerate that from the one position where you really need consistency?

KICKER: JASON HANSON: B: Hanson hasn't gotten many opportunities, but when he does, he usually makes the most of them.

HEAD COACH: STEVE MARIUCCI B: He can only "coach 'em up" so much. How many wins will he be able to coax out of this team in the second half will determine how much overhaul there is to the Lions roster this offseason. He is, however "building something good here."

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: DICK JAURON: A: The Lions defense is better than it has been. Jauron has taken players and put them in a position to make plays. He also had the courage to part ways with Lions great Robert Porcher. He may be one-and-done in Detroit -- for a head coaching position.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: SHERMAN LEWIS C: How can you grade Lewis when he doesn't get to call the plays? Here is one area I'd like to see Mariucci cut the cord and let Lewis, who knows the WCO as well as anyone, run the show.

PRESIDENT MATT MILLEN: C: The drafts that looked good on paper aren't looking that great anymore. The free agents that were signed have had mixed results. If Millen is thinking of exiting because he doesn't want to be away from his family anymore, this is the time to do it. The organization is set up with capable Tom Lewand atop it, personnel director Sheldon White, assistant GM Martin Mayhew and coach Mariucci can take care of the rest.

4-4 gets you a "C" everytime.

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