Only Three Questions Loom For Lions

As training camps go, the Detroit Lions had one of their quietest in recent years. No major controversies. No major breakdowns. No major holdouts, walkouts or blowups. However, after two preseason contests, three questions still loom large regarding the team.

ALLEN PARK - As training camps go, the Lions had one of their quietest in recent years.

No major controversies. No major breakdowns. No major holdouts, walkouts or blowups.

They had only one major injury -- a broken leg to fullback Cory Schlesinger, and he's expected to miss only three or four games at the most.

In the two weeks they spent in two-a-days or variations thereof, however, coach Steve Mariucci saw a lot of things he liked but he did not come up with answers to all of the Lions questions regarding the 2005 NFL season.

The quarterback issue seems to be fairly well settled. Joey Harrington, the starter for the past three seasons, has done nothing to loosen his grip on the No. 1 job; in fact, he has made progress in convincing the Lions he can do the job.

The new offensive line pieces seem to have fallen into place. Rick DeMulling, signed away from Indianapolis, has fit nicely into the left guard position and Kelly Butler, a late-round draft pick who didn't play a down last year as a rookie, has taken over the right tackle job.

All of last year's injuries -- wide receiver Charles Rogers' broken collarbone, linebacker Boss Bailey's surgical knee and kick returner Eddie Drummond's broken shoulder blade -- have survived the early tests with no negative results.

And the competition among the cornerbacks in a replenished defensive secondary, has been good for all involved, especially the young cornerbacks like Keith Smith and rookie Stanley Wilson.

But nagging questions remained after the Lions broke camp and played their first two preseason games.

No. 1 -- Can they be any better in the red zone than they were last year, when they were among the NFL's least effective?
Only two teams -- Jacksonville and Chicago -- had less success scoring touchdowns after getting inside the 20-yard line than the Lions, who converted on only 19 of 43 opportunities, an average of 44.2.

No. 2 -- Can they pressure opposing quarterbacks on a consistent and menacing basis?
The Lions had 38 quarterback sacks -- including 11.5 by blue-collar DE James Hall -- and ranked in the middle of the pack in that area, but they still lack a speed rusher who is a threat to get to the quarterback on every down.

No. 3 -- Will the Lions ever be a good tackling team?
For several years they have been subpar in that area and they haven't shown yet this year that they can do anything about it. They overrun plays, they don't get to the play or they fail to wrap up the runner/receiver; frequently at the expense of costly yardage.

"I told them I'm not going to change our practice routine and start tackling Kevin Jones and smacking Roy Williams across the middle just so we can practice tackling those guys," Mariucci said.

"So you're going to have to drill it in practice and you're going to have to tackle better on preseason game day. I want to see improvement from week to week."

Lions Report Top Stories