ALLEN PARK - It's a necessary evil. Two weeks of heavy training, bonding with your teammates and working out the kinks on the road to what they hope will be a successful season. But now it's over, and everyone seems to be thankful and relieved. Especially so, since the team suffered just one significant injury - Cory Schlesinger's broken tibia which will keep him off the field for two months.
"This is the healthiest camp that I've been around in my 14 years of coaching," said Lions head coach Steve Mariuci. "It's been really good. The guys are wired in and they are getting better every week. I see it. We stopped installing after installation number 10. We're back in the review mode and cleaning up some things to get ready for some of these preseason games. I like where we are headed. I like the fact that they work hard."
Mariucci said that in the absence of Schlesinger, veteran Paul Smith will get first shot to win the starting fullback job. "We're going to start with Paul Smith. Then we have Will Matthews. Shawn Bryson can play some of that. He played some of that a year ago in a couple of different personnel groups. We signed Greg Hanoian back for camp and we'll take a peek at him again."
Mariucci said a point of emphasis for the fullback will be getting linebackers on the ground. "We're going to play the same way with Paul and Will. Will has to learn how to block the (Brian) Urlachers of the world. He's got to learn to do that in this preseason."
"I failed to mention earlier that another thing that I want to see is us cut (block) linebackers." continued the coach. "I want to see us tackle better, which I think we will because we've been drilling it continuously and that will improve from game one to game two. Those fullbacks blocking those linebackers is something that we can't present to them in practice all of the time, so we get to do it on game day. And they're going to do a lot of it."
On the defensive side, Mariucci wants to see the team exert more pressure on the opposing signal caller and shut down the running game. The Jets racked up 100 yards rushing and put together a long drive that kept the team from getting Jeff Garcia into the game with the first unit.
"I'd like to get to the quarterback more often," continued Mariucci. "We want to keep them out of the end zone. We did give up one touchdown in the last game and you'd love to shut everybody out, but when we pin somebody down to the two-yard line, you have to keep them backed up and make them punt back to you, and we didn't do that. I don't want see as many penalties in this game either. We had far too many. The ones were pretty good with the penalties, but after that, it got a little sloppy."
Regarding Garcia, Mariucci said he would try again to get him some work with the starters. "We want to have Jeff (Garcia) jump in there somewhere in the second quarter and play with our 'ones'. We have some evaluating to do with some of our second- and third-strings. I will say that there are more than 53 guys here now that are capable of making an NFL roster, which means that we are going to have to make some tough decisions. That's a good problem to have; it means that you have some depth."
Lions Break Camp Healthy; Goals Intact
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