Waiting To Click: Lions Offense Still Growing

After Sunday's loss, the Lions offense sunk to 28th overall in the league. Joey Harrington is among the lowest rated starting quarterbacks with a paltry 57.3. The team's 74 rushing yards per game is good enough for 27th overall. And if the news couldn't get any worse, receiver Charles Rogers will likely miss the next four weeks. But does hope still spring eternal for Detroit? Possibly.

ALLEN PARK - This isn't how the Detroit Lions offense was supposed to perform.

No, sir, not with a plethora of talent around fourth-year quarterback Joey Harrington. Not with the addition of tight end Marcus Pollard. Not with three credible receivers. Not with a premier running game.

No. This was the year Detroit's offense was primed to systematically annihilate opposing defenses.

Four weeks and three games later, the greyhound has arrived -- paid in full -- to move Harrington out of Detroit. He might even be able to bring head coach Steve Mariucci with him.

After Sunday's 17-13 loss to Tampa Bay, the Lions offense sunk to 28th overall in the National Football League. Harrington is among the lowest rated starting quarterbacks with a paltry 57.3. The team's 74 rushing yards per game is good enough for 27th overall. It hasn't been pretty.

If the news couldn't get any worse, the Lions learned that receiver Charles Rogers will likely miss the next four weeks after violating the league's substance abuse policy.

And, ironically enough, Mariucci and Harrington might be the first to say, "We told you so." Well, except for the whole Rogers thing.

During the preseason, both reminded the media -- almost daily -- to be cautiously optimistic. While Harrington was, indeed, happy with the talent around him, he noted several times that it would take time for the unit to become cohesive. Mariucci echoed those statements, stressing the need to be realistic about Detroit's very youthful offense. It would be a work-in-progress, even in the early stages of the season.

Maybe they were onto something.

Mariucci Remains Confident In Lions Offense
The Lions west coast offense is predicated on many timing patterns. It involves the quarterback, offensive line, running backs, and wide receivers to be on the same page simultaneously. With a second-year running back, a second-year receiver, and a third-year receiver with the experience of a first-year player, perhaps it shouldn't be so devastating that this young ball club has struggled. Perhaps everyone that expected fireworks set themselves up for disappointment.

Perhaps.

"(The receivers) are works-in-progress," Mariucci said Monday, admitting that he would like to see more "chunk" plays out of his offense. "That's why they work everyday to get better, understand the progressions, where they fit into this scheme and where they block.

"Often times, they will have dual blocking assignments based on who's supporting and who's not. Sometimes it looks like they didn't make contact, but it's like that because they start in one direction and end up in another."

It might not be a coincidence that two of the most productive offensive players are a couple of veterans: tight end Marcus Pollard and wide receiver Kevin Johnson.

Several of the missed opportunities in the last two games weren't necessarily due to poor individual effort, either. In the Chicago loss, Harrington's communication with Roy Williams was off, causing a momentum-changing interception. On Sunday, there was less confusion, but the timing was awkward on a few plays.

Harrington admitted that the development has been slow, but was confident that the group was improving.

"I think it's slower than people would have wanted it to be, everybody in this locker room included," Harrington said. "That's part of what goes with having Chuck (Charles Roger) back after two years off, having Mike (Williams) coming in new; that's the stuff that we talked about in the preseason.

"How fast we learn from our mistakes is going to determine how good we are by the middle and end of this season. We've made a few mistakes and we have learned from them and it's time to keep moving forward."

The Lions will be forced to move on, at least temporarily without Rogers, but depth at the position isn't a concern.

Detroit is 1-2 -- leaving 13 more games to play.

In the meantime, Mariucci and Harrington will continue to be patient; biding their time. To them, it isn't a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

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