Detroit Lions 2005 Team Preview

Detroit has the talent on paper to make a big move upward in the NFC North but paper won't get it done. It time for this team to produce some wins and make a run at the division title, if not, heads are going to roll and they won't be the ones in the front offices.

Offense: The Lions offense is under the gun to produce points and win some football games. The Detroit front office has spent an unprecedented three consecutive first round picks on wide receivers (Charles Rogers 2003, Roy Williams 2004, Mike Williams 2005) in order to provide beleaguered quarterback Joey Harrington with some offensive firepower.

Harrington, in his fourth season from Oregon, is expected to improve in completion percentage, quarterback rating, touchdown passes and passing efficiency. Detroit brought in veteran Jeff Garcia, ostensibly to backup Harrington, but in reality, he was to serve as a replacement if Harrington failed to live up to the team's lofty goals for him. But Garcia suffered a broken fibula in Detroit final preseason game and will be out of action for 6-8 weeks and likely won't be able to play until week 10, giving Harrington a nice comfort zone.

The real star of the Detroit offense is second-year running back Kevin Jones from Virginia Tech. Jones led all rushers over the last nine games of the season and after dropping eight pounds to "feel quicker" he appears poised to duplicate the effort that made him a Pro Bowl alternate. Look for Jones to put up 1,300-1,500 yard season if the offensive line gels quickly enough to get the job done.

That isn't a given. Lions offensive lineman Rick DeMulling warned observers back in the early part of training camp that it would take the Lions front time to gel and couldn't put a timetable on it. With second-year tackle Kelly Butler a first-time starter joining DeMulling and holdovers Dominic Raiola, Damien Woody and Jeff Backus, the unit has the potential to be good, but they've got to get it done.

Defense: The strength of the front four is in the middle with Pro Bowl tackle Shaun Rogers and Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson, but the heir apparent to Wilkinson is second-round pick Shaun Cody who reminds many observers of a young Luther Elliss. Detroit's problem has been generating a pass rush from its undersized ends. While James Hall has double-digit sack numbers, he gets little help getting after the passer. Cory Redding has not developed the way Detroit hoped but is decent as a run stopper.

Linebacker/defensive end Kalimba Edwards could be on the hot seat if he doesn't regain the form he showed as a rookie when he recorded 6 1/2 sacks. Veteran Jared DeVries could see greater playing time opposite Hall if Detroit continues having trouble stopping the run.

Detroit has spent several draft picks looking to upgrade their speed at the linebacking corps. Second round pick's Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman join sixth round pick James Davis and fifth rounder Alex Lewis to give Detroit an infusion of speed in the linebacking corps, but the question is will coordinator Dick Jauron turn that speed loose to get after the quarterback? Veteran Earl Holmes is a solid, steady run stuffer providing a calming influence on this young developing group.

The secondary is on the spot to stop the deep balls that doomed Detroit's season. The Lions added veteran R.W. McQuarters in free agency this season to join previous acquisitions Dre' Bly and Fernando Bryant. While the team waived goodbye to former sixth round pick Chris Cash, third round picks Keith Smith and Stanley Wilson join holdover Andre Goodman to give the corners depth and talent. At the safety position, Detroit wisely deep-sixed Brock Marion and plan to use Bracy Walker mostly as a special teamer. That means fifth-round pick Terrence Holt joins the starting lineup with free agent signee Kenoy Kennedy. That in itself should cut down the balls going over the safeties head. Kennedy adds a toughness to the secondary that ought to give receivers pause when thinking about coming over the middle.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Coordinator Chuck Priefer is one of the best in football despite his quirky, off-beat practice sessions. Priefer has pro bowl returner Eddie Drummond, the best in football, as the biggest weapon in his arsenal. Drummond is a threat to take it to the house on every play. Veteran Donte' Curry continues to provide solid leadership on the coverage teams, while kicker Jason Hanson remains steady even if he's lost a little distance on his range. Punter Nick Harris is adequate and seems to be improving in putting the ball inside the 20 yard line.

OVERALL: Detroit has the talent on paper to make a big move upward in the NFC North but paper won't get it done. It time for this team to produce some wins and make a run at the division title, if not, heads are going to roll and they won't be the ones in the front offices.

Lions Report Top Stories