Lions need more playmakers to be factor in 2005

Whether the Lions make the playoffs or not this season, they need to face reality when it comes to being a legitimate contender; they aren't one. They will not be one until they plug some serious holes in their roster. One void that has already been assumed is at running back, says Lions' insider Mike Fowler. But many more are still apparent.

(ALLEN PARK) - Whether the Lions make the playoffs or not this season, they need to face reality when it comes to being a legitimate contender; they aren't one. They will not be one until they plug some serious holes in their roster.

If next seasons gives us the return and continued availability of first round draft pick Charles Rogers and second round pick Boss Bailey to the lineup, Detroit will have two additional play makers that were not available to them this season.

Detroit also will draft somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15th in the NFL draft. The Lions seem to be looking at acquiring a defensive playmaker to bolster the group, likely a defensive end. Still, the Lions need to plug some additional holes and build depth for the inevitable spate of injuries that always hits this team.

Looking at the Lions roster right now, they are as healthy as they have been in a long time, but age, declining production and some disappointing performances have exposed some holes in the roster that didn't appear earlier in the season.

Quarterback:
Most feel that the wisest course of action for the Lions would be to bring in a veteran quarterback to compete with Joey Harrington for the top spot. While that would make sense, what if Mike McMahon gets into the last three games and lights it up. Don't laugh. McMahon played as well as he ever has in relief of Harrington in Detroit's blowout loss to Indianapolis. If McMahon plays well, it might be more practical to dump Harrington altogether and let McMahon and a veteran to fight it out. Then again, the specter of Drew Brees finally getting it together in San Diego in his fourth season makes this the toughest call for the Lions brass this offseason.

Cory Schlesinger has never been the most talented player in the world. Schlesinger has made his mark by being a tough hard-nosed player. But age appears to be finally catching up with the 10-year veteran from Nebraska. Since fullback is such a key position for Detroit, they could cover themselves by drafting from a good pool of fullbacks that will likely be around after the second round of the NFL draft. It is unknown whether Paul Davis can be the everyday blocking stud that Detroit's offense calls for.

Wide Receiver:
Tai Streets failure to solidify the No. 3 receiver position has been among the biggest disappointments of the free agent period, but give Lions President Matt Millen credit. He hedged his bets by signing Streets to only a one-year conditional deal. Az-Zahir Hakim's oft-injured status has also made him a liability. With Roy Williams pulling a disappearing act in the second half of the season, Detroit has to hope that Rogers is back and 100% healthy for the entire season and supplement this with a high draft pick. While they may not want to spend another first, there are enough talented receivers that a second or third round pick could be the answer here.

Running back:
Kevin Jones is the solid bellcow here, but what would Detroit do if they had an injury? Shawn Bryson is a good third down type back, but Detroit needs someone who can fill the bill in the case of injury. Why not add to the depth by signing a veteran free agent. The inactive status of second year back Artose Pinner speaks volumes about his talent level.

Defensive end:
Cory Redding may be a decent run stopper, but he should be in the role of a Jared DeVries -- not a starter. Redding has no pass rush and good teams can run on him. Detroit would be well served to use a first round pick or some free agent dollars to finally get a solid run stopping/pass rushing end. Wisconsin's Erasmus James is said to be the top end in the draft. Detroit opted not to sign free agent Bertrand Berry who was available in free agency at a bargain price last season. Berry leads the NFL in sacks for Arizona.

Safety:
This is Detroit's weakest link. Detroit has signed stopgap after stopgap at this position. Since Mark Carrier made a pro bowl appearance, the Lions have signed Kurt Schulz, then Brian Walker and finally Bracy Walker by default at free safety. The strong safety is just as bad with undrafted free agent Ron Rice then aging Corey Harris to today's aging Brock Marion. The Lions will not play second year man Terrence Holt but he should be a factor next year. Rumors have bounced around about acquiring Donavon Darius of Jacksonville for two seasons, Detroit needs to stop playing around and get two safeties who can tackle and have enough speed to play in a two-deep.

Punter:
Detroit has been hurt over and over by Nick Harris' poor punt in critical situations. Harris is a journeyman who has overspent his stay. It's time for Detroit to acquire a veteran free agent who can make the big punt when the pressure is on.

Can Detroit really acquire eight different players who can make a difference. Yes. Between free agency and the draft the Lions should be able to get four to five players each. While Shaun Rogers is likely to be franchised, the Lions had better not allow rising young star Stockar McDougle to walk away without a solid replacement. McDougle and guard Damien Woody have combined to make a formidable blocking tandem.

If Detroit can plug these holes, they won't have to worry about backing into a playoff spot next season.

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