Three Training Camp Goals For Lions

These are three training camp goals the Lions hope to accomplish: Establish Harrington as the starting quarterback, Settle on the best set of linebackers, and Reconfigure the defensive secondary. Much more, plus a breakdown of each goal, inside.

These are three training camp goals the Lions hope to accomplish:

1. Establish Joey Harrington as the starting quarterback and offensive leader.

Since the moment coach Steve Mariucci expressed an interest in signing Jeff Garcia last February, speculation has run rampant that it is only a matter of time until Garcia unseats Harrington as the Lions quarterback.

Mariucci has stated in so many words that Harrington is the No. 1 quarterback but until Harrington - now in his fourth NFL season - establishes himself by his performance in training camp or the pre-season, the speculation will continue and that could lead to unrest and uncertainty among the offensive troops.

If the Lions are going to make a move in the NFC North race - as they and many observers believe is possible - they can't become embroiled in a quarterback controversy.

But that means Harrington has to step up and do the job. After three years in which he had little help from his receivers and backs, he now has all the weapons necessary to be an effective NFL quarterback. The rest is up to him.

Unless Harrington totally self-destructs in the pre-season, it seems unlikely Mariucci will pull the plug before the Sept. 11 opener against Green Bay. But if Harrington falters and the Lions don't get off to a good start, there is little doubt that Mariucci will go to Garcia, who was his starter and a Pro Bowl performer under Mariucci when they were together at San Francisco.

Of course, there is another factor to be considered - Garcia. He is coming off a miserable season at Cleveland and his arm strength - average at best, even at the height of his career - might have deteriorated even more if his performance during the minicamps was any indication.

2. Settle on the best set of linebackers.

After two years of apparently wise drafting, Lions president Matt Millen has accumulated a promising set of young linebackers. The question now is where they're going to fit in, assuming they're all healthy at the end of training camp.

At the top of the list is Boss Bailey, who had a strong rookie season - starting every game at the strong side - but missed the entire 2004 season after undergoing knee surgery in August.

He participated in all of the minicamps and Mariucci had him out of the red jersey by the middle of June, an indication the Lions feel he is fully recovered from the surgery. Assuming there are no lingering after affects, it is likely he will reclaim the strong side linebacker job.

If that indeed is the case, defensive coordinator Dick Jauron has to decide what to do with second-year linebacker Teddy Lehman, who started all 16 games as a rookie last year in Bailey's place.

The original plan was that Lehman, with all of his speed and athletic ability, would play in the middle, even though he's not considered a classic "thumper." And that is probably where he will work - in competition with veteran Earl Holmes - if Bailey is 100 percent.

There is still a possibility, however, that Lehman might be tested at the weak side, the position he played during most of his career at Oklahoma. James Davis, starting his third NFL season, did a respectable job on the weak side last year but doesn't have an ironclad claim on the job.

And, lurking in the wings is Alex Lewis. He has played primarily on special teams and in nickel packages where the Lions could maximize his speed and athletic ability but it's not out of the question that he could compete eventually for a starting job.

3. Reconfigure the defensive secondary.

If Millen has said it once, he's said it dozens of times: "You can never have too many good cornerbacks." He might expand that to "defensive backs" in general after the past off-season.

With the addition of strong safety Kenoy Kennedy and cornerback R.W. McQuarters in free agency, and the drafting of cornerback Stanley Wilson, the Lions have the makings of one of their best defensive secondaries in years. But there are questions as to how it will fit together.

Going into camp two things are certain: Dre' Bly will start at the right corner and Kennedy will be the strong safety. The other two jobs - plus the nickel and dime positions - will be won through competition.

Fernando Bryant, who was a high-priced free agent acquisition a year ago, had a disappointing first season in Detroit, in part because of a bothersome ankle injury that cost him six games. He and McQuarters will probably battle it out for the left corner position.

The other possibility is that McQuarters will compete with third-year free safety Terrence Holt for that job. McQuarters played part of last season in Chicago at free safety and the Lions coaching staff - for whatever reason - has been reluctant to entrust the job to Holt.

In addition to those veteran players, the Lions have a handful of promising young defensive backs - Keith Smith, who got considerable experience as a rookie in 2004; Stanley Wilson, their third-round draft pick and a speedster; and more experienced corners in Chris Cash and Andre Goodman.

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