Analysis: Bad News and Good News

ALLEN PARK -- The defensive tackle tandem of Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson has been the strength of the team in the early going.



They dominated in the season opener against Green Bay, providing an inside pass rush against quarterback Brett Favre and depriving running back Ahman Green of any kind of running room.

Lovie Smith and the Bears figured out a way to circumvent the 680 - it might actually be closer to 700 - pounds of defensive tackle force in the second game, but it wasn't like Rogers and Wilkinson were manhandled. One or the other was double-teamed the entire game and the Bears were able to get outside much of the time on their way to 187 net rushing yards.

The good news is that Rogers, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2003 and a Pro Bowl starter in 2004, is in the first year of a new contract and seems as motivated as he was a year ago. Wilkinson, in his 14th season, is playing some of his best football in recent years.

If the Lions get the rest of the supporting cast to play anywhere near the level of those two, they should be able to stay in a lot of games, regardless of how the offense plays.

BAD NEWS

Coach Steve Mariucci is in his third season with the Lions, has his own set of coaches, his own set of players and his beloved West Coast offense. And still the Lions are horribly inconsistent moving the football.

They were good enough to beat Green Bay in the season opener at Ford Field, but when they got on the road, the looked a lot like the team that set an NFL record by losing 24 in a row on the road during the 2001-03 seasons.

The problems begin up front, in the offensive line. No one expected the Lions to be dominating up front, but quarterback Joey Harrington has had to rush every pass and running back Kevin Jones has had virtually no running room.

Furthermore, the Lions are getting only modest production from their trio of first-round wide receivers - Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. Veteran tight end Marcus Pollard and wide receiver Kevin Johnson have been Harrington's most dependable receivers in the first two games but they aren't going to scare opposing defenses enough to pull their eighth defender out of the box.


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