"New" Lions Present Problems For Opposing Defenses

Think of what defenses around the league are forced to confront if all three Lions wideouts are healthy. There was a reason Charles Rogers was the second overall pick in 2003. Rogers has the speed and moves to take any catch to the end zone. Combine that with the big, physical presence that Roy Williams brings to the table. Now add in Mike Williams. Much more analysis from Lions' insider Mike Fowler inside ...

ALLEN PARK - With the acquisition of Mike Williams from the University of Southern California in the first round of the NFL draft, Lions' president and general manager Matt Millen has created a problem for defensive coordinators all over the league.

No one expected Detroit to take Williams because the Lions had selected wide receivers first overall in the last two drafts. No team in NFL draft history had selected three straight wide receivers. You'd have too much cap money tied up in receivers, the critics said. But give Millen credit for looking at the draft and realizing where the real impact players were.

Millen saw that the out of the list of likely defensive players available -- defensive ends David Pollack and Shawne Merriman, linebacker Derrick Johnson, safety Thomas Davis and all the rest -- there were very few real impact players. Sure, they'll all be solid pros, but none is likely to change the chemistry or the production of the Lions' defense.

Fact is, Millen had already done more in free agency to fix the defensive problems than drafting any defensive player in the first round would have done. The biggest problem existing were the two starting safeties, Bracy Walker and Brock Marion. While both had been solid players in their respective careers, Marion clearly no longer possessed the range to play center field and Walker was in reality a special teams player.

Bring Kenoy Kennedy aboard took care of one safety position and Detroit filled the other from within, promoting young Terrence Holt, a sixth-round find, as the starter at free safety.

That left Millen free to take the "best player available" and it was Williams by a longshot.

Think of what defenses around the league are forced to confront if all three Lions wideouts are healthy. There was a reason Charles Rogers was the second overall pick in 2003. Rogers has star quality, tremendous hands and an acrobatic flair. If he reaches his full potential, he could be Lynn Swann-like. Rogers has the speed and moves to take any catch to the end zone. Combine that with the big, physical presence that Roy Williams brings to the table. Williams was a tough cover last season with little-to-no help opposite after Rogers was injured. Having the two of them back would scare defenses.

Now add in Mike Williams.

Williams was a consensus top-three pick in last year's draft prior to having his eligibility struck down by the courts. A year away isn't going to do anything to Williams' talents except make him hungry to prove himself. He is a super tough cover, especially in the red zone because of his size (6-foot-5, 230-pounds) and his very good speed (4.5).

How are defenses going to handle seeing all three on the field at once?

Few defenses have two solid cover corners let alone three. If the safeties back off the line of scrimmage to account for the trio, that's music to the ears of Lions' Pro Bowl running back Kevin Jones. Jones ran for over 1,200 yards a season ago without the running game even getting in gear until week six.

You think having three star receivers isn't going to benefit Jones?

The great thing about having all three receivers early in their careers is that they can grow together and learn to share the football. Hopefully, none of the petty jealousy that can arise finds its way into the Lions locker room.

Oh and by the way, let's not forget about the presence of Marcus Pollard, a very solid receiving tight end and Kevin Johnson, a steady slot receiver who is now the fourth receiver. Millen also got a player in Shaun Cody, the defensive tackle/end who might be as good as any of the so-called elite defensive prospects.

Matt, my hats off to you. You've created an offense that will have opposing defensive coordinators scratching their heads and a pretty solid defense in the process. Maybe this turns out to be the year that long-suffering Lions fans have been waiting to see.

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