PAWS FOR THOUGHT: It's Too Soon To Count out Lions

The Lions are better off than they've been in four seasons, sporting a .500 mark at the halfway point, writes Lions' insider Mike Fowler, who believes fans need to be realistic -- and remain patient.

(ALLEN PARK) - "Get rid of Joey Harrington." "Kevin Jones is a bust." "Detroit can't run the football" "The Lions are done."

How about a dose of sanity here and a reality check?

Before the locals have you to ready to give up on the Lions and start making draft projections, remember this is only the halfway point of the season.

The Lions are better off than they've been in four seasons, sporting a .500 mark at the halfway point. Yes, there have been disappointments. Yes, they could be 5-3 or maybe even 6-2 after their 3-1 start, but if you trade off the upset wins for the upset losses, Detroit is about where everyone expected, en route to a 8-8, 9-7 season.

Detroit has problems running the ball. Most of those problems originate with the left side of the offensive line where journeyman guard Dave Loverne was given a starting position despite never having started an NFL game in his four-year career.

Center Dominic Raiola's disappointing play at center hurts both sides of the offensive line's ability to run block. It appears Loverne will lose his starting position to solid Matt Joyce, a versatile lineman who can play almost every position along the offensive line. While Joyce's presence should make the left side more physical, Detroit won't be able to do anything about the center position until the offseason, so they'll have to continue to "coach up" Raiola.

Running back Kevin Jones is so anxious to be successful, he's dooming himself to failure. Jones has the speed, the moves and the toughness to be successful, now he needs a heavy dose of patience.

The rookie first round pick from Virginia Tech seems so anxious to get outside that he misses late developing holes on the inside. Jones needs to watch the film of the league's top backs, like Washington's Clinton Portis and Indianapolis' Edgerrin James and observe how they wait for holes to develop and then burst through them.

It's too early to utter the "b" word in connection with the rookie just yet.

Then there's the talented, but inconsistent Joey Harrington. Harrington was sensational in a win over the New York Gianst. He was horrible in Sunday's loss to Washington. Look for Harrington to bounce back in Jacksonville, in fact look for the entire team to bounce back.

This Sunday gives the Lions exactly what they need at the mid-point of the season: a road trip. A chance to get away with the guys and fix their problems.

While Jacksonville is no slouch, they'll be without their MVP quarterback Byron Leftwich. Out with a torn ACL, Leftwich attempted to play this week, but was overrruled by the Jaguars medical staff.

Without him, the Jaguars will start career backup David Garrard. This is a chance for the Lions to workout the run game, work in Joyce and work out the kinks in their offense.

Detroit ought to come out with their hurry-up offense in an attempt to shake off the slow starts that have doomed them for several games this season. Work in some sprint draws and mis-direction runs to give Jones a chance to get started.

Look, the Eagles haven't clinched the conference, the Vikings are leading the division by only one game over the supposedly dead Lions and the Packers (tied at 4-4). You can read all the columnists who try to predict what is going to happen, but today's NFL is known for its unpredictability.

The facts are the division is up for grabs, playoff spots are up for grabs and the Lions are right in the middle of the mix.

That's why they play the games.

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