Lion Offense's Mid-Season Report Card is Just That, Offensive
To say that the Detroit Lions offense has been disappointing so far this season would be like saying that Aretha Franklin was only "pleasingly plump." Steve Mariucci's 2004 offense makes the Darryl Rogers/Rusty Hilger 1988 Lion attack look like Air Coryell. For the rest of the season, Steve "Mr. Kotter" Mariucci and his offensive Sweathogs must report for remedial offensive tutoring immediately after practice for the rest of the season to study the game films of the 2003 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Why? Because last season's Pats found a way to win despite injuries, the lack of Pro Bowl caliber receivers and running backs, and a makeshift offensive line. Now on to the grades. . . .
Quarterbacks: Overall C+
Joey Harrington: C+
He has looked great at times (v. the Giants) and horrible at others (v. the Packers and the Redskins). Unlike the truly great QB's, Joey has yet to show the ability to lift the play of his teammates and make them perform above themselves. The most disturbing thing is that his play seems to drop more at home than on the road.
Mike McMahon: Inc.
Hasn't seen the field yet, and unless Harrington absolutely collapses, it's likely to remain that way.
Running Backs: Overall C+
Kevin Jones: Incomplete
It is an abomination that this guy is only touching the ball an average of 9.5 times a game. There isn't another team in the entire league would allow this to happen to the most explosive running back on their roster. It's an excuse for the coaching staff to continue to say that K.J. is still having trouble picking up the offense's nuances. Would Bill Belichick use that as an excuse to keep his #1 draft choice on the bench eight games into the season? I bet ole' Bill would instead create a series of plays that the player was comfortable with to get the player into the game and turn him loose.
But what the hell do I know? I'm just a writer.
Artose Pinner: C+
He is a C+ player doing a C+ job. He is a good backup; it's a simple as that.
Shawn Bryson: B+
In his role as a third down back, he is great, hence his grade. Good at picking up the blitz and catching the ball out of the backfield. He is not a game breaker and never will be, and at this point he should not be taking touches away from Jones, although it seems that the Lions' coaching staff still thinks otherwise.
Cory Schlesinger: B-
The years are starting to catch up to this warrior. He can still lay out a linebacker and move the chains with a reception; but he is no longer a punishing runner and is not as dominant a lead blocker as he once was.
Stephen Trejo: C+
Just like Pinner, he is a C+ player who does what is asked of him.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Overall C
Roy Williams: B+
He does things that other players simply cannot do. He is the Shaun Rogers of the Detroit offense.
Az Hakim: B-
He's playing the best ball of his Lion career this season; still capable of making the big play when not forced into the #1 WR role.
Tai Streets: D
Has not been a major factor at all, a major disappointment.
Reggie Swinton: C+
He is beginning to contribute as a wideout and could become a big-time role player down the line.
David Kircus: Inc.
One big play against the Cowboys that was reminiscent of his days at Grand Valley State, otherwise, he's been invisible.
Unlike his predecessor, Mikhael Ricks, Alexander can catch the ball with consistency and is an adequate blocker. However, he is no where near the playmaker that Ricks was. He should be more of a force, but isn't.
An adequate backup role player with decent hands who is a terrible blocker and a liability in the run game.
John Owens: Inc.
A great blocker who looked dominant while catching the ball as a rookie in 2002. . . . Oh yeah. I forgot. He is no longer with the team.
Offensive Line: Overall D
Stockar McDougle: C-
Played brutal in September and has improved slightly since. He is overweight; lead footed, and is a liability against speed rushers. In the running game he is adequate at best, which is an indictment for a man who is 6'6" and 350+ pounds.
Damien Woody: C
Like McDougle, Woody is also overweight. As a result, he struggles when pulling out wide to lead sweeps and screen plays. His current weight problem might be a result from the aftereffects of the knee injury he suffered last season with New England, which caused him to alter his offseason workout regimen.
He is the worst starting-center the Lions have had in at least the last 25-years. William Clay Ford Sr. should be forced to drive a Corvette if the Lions re-sign Him. Raiola is an insult to the Lions center legacy laid down by men like Alex Wojciechowicz, Vince Banonis, Ed Flanagan, and Kevin Glover.
David Loverne: D-
His play of late is of the "F" variety, but I can't hold it against him because he shouldn't have been forced into a starting role in the first place.
Matt Joyce: D-
Isn't this a bit too harsh, you ask? What do you want from me? This guy couldn't beat out Loverne for a starting job for Keith Dorney's sake!
Jeff Backus: C
Is it just me, or does it seem like this guy has plateaued? Like his OT booked Stockar McDougle, Backus is not playing like a former first-rounder should be playing at this point in his career.
Offensive Special Teams: Overall A
Jason Hanson: A-
I don't care if you've only attempted 7 field goals in 8 games! Rust is no excuse! (Yes it is. It is a joke that this guy has been on the field less than the waterboy.) Note to offense: Move the damn' chains and take advantage of your kicker's skills and the spectacular field position that has been routinely given to you by the guy with the next grade.
What more can this guy do to set up the offense? Maybe he can start calling plays or something.
Offensive Coaching: Overall D-
The only reason I don't give Mariucci and his staff a failing grade is because of the injuries to Roy Williams and Charles Rogers. Eight games in, this offense still has no imagination, no consistency, and no bread and butter plays that it can rely on. While Mariucci continues to harp on the need to establish a running game, he has yet to show a true commitment to it once Sunday rolls around. Conversely, he has yet to open up the passing game to an acceptable level. As a result, opposing defenses are clamping down on the underneath stuff by flooding the short zones and destroying the running game by rolling up extra defenders into the box and attacking the line of scrimmage. At the halfway point of the season this offense should be progressing, not regressing. The 2004 Detroit Lion offense is in the midst of a Run-versus-Pass identity crisis. I rest the blame for that exclusively on the shoulders of the head coach.