An injury to backup quarterback Jeff Garcia means the Lions will probably begin the NFL season Sunday with just two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster -- starter Joey Harrington and rookie Dan Orlovsky, a fifth-round draft pick from Connecticut.
Garcia suffered a broken left fibula and a badly sprained left ankle on the final play of the first quarter in the Lions' 21-7 preseason victory Friday night at Buffalo.
Although it is expected to take up to eight weeks for the fibula to heal -- and possibly longer for the sprain -- coach Steve Mariucci indicated he wants to keep Garcia on the active roster if there is any chance he will be available in December, when he hopes the Lions are battling for a division title and playoff berth.
Orlovsky has been impressive in training camp and the preseason, completing 29 of 54 (54 percent) of his passes for 356 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, but the Lions don't want to be put into a situation where they have to depend on him as the starter if Harrington were to be injured.
Three keys for the season:
1. The Lions -- as a team -- must drag themselves out of a four-year spin in the NFL doldrums. They are coming off consecutive seasons of 2-14, 3-13, 5-11 and 6-10, and must muster the confidence to get themselves through difficult situations without falling back into their losing ways. That means a presence of strong and tough internal leadership which, so far, has not presented itself.
2. New offensive coordinator Ted Tollner has to expand the West Coast offense to get the most out of a talented group of young players, and quarterback Joey Harrington has to execute better than he has in his first three NFL seasons. Harrington now has playmaker receivers in Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, Kevin Johnson and Mike Williams, and he has a strong running game in Kevin Jones, Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner.
3. The defense must be tougher and coordinator Dick Jauron must find a way to
get to opposing quarterbacks despite the lack of a dominating speed rusher. The
linebackers, in particular, must make plays at the line of scrimmage rather than
five or six yards downfield. Defensive end James Hall is coming off an 11
1/2-sack season but the Lions have to give him some help pressuring the
quarterback, whether it's with blitzes or other schemes.