ALLEN PARK - Although Lions new coach Rod Marinelli has a background on the defensive side of the ball, it has not taken him long to figure out one of his team's most pressing needs for the 2006 season -- an explosive offense.
That was why he worked long and hard to convince former St. Louis coach Mike Martz to take the Lions' offensive coordinator job and he obviously is expecting big things -- in a hurry -- from Martz and the Lions' long-dormant offense.
"I think high-tempo, high velocity offense," Marinelli said. "We're going to explode. That's one thing I'm really excited about with Mike."
Any kind of offensive explosion would be an upgrade from the Lions' offensive production in the past five years of West Coast offense under previous coaches Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci.
Despite spending the No. 1 pick on offensive players in each of the last five drafts, the Lions never averaged better than 19 points a game (in 2002). During the past season, they ranked 27th overall in the NFL in offensive yardage and were 28th in the NFL in scoring, with an average of 15.875 points per game.
The Lions scored 21 points or more only three times in the entire 2005 season; in 12 games they managed only 17 points or less.
Seeing what appeared to be an obvious discrepancy between the offensive talent available and the lack of production, Marinelli didn't need long to decide he has a coordinator capable of turning things around.
"I was in personnel one day," he explained. "I could see the talent we had on offense, the young receivers. Seeing them, I had to get the best guy in football. I made up my mind -- get these guys excited, get them to explode. I want to be daring."
"If we walked out today, he'd take the first snap," Marinelli said. "Somebody's got to come out first. It doesn't mean anything."
Marinelli added hastily that he hasn't settled or even come close to settling on his starter for the regular season. With four quarterbacks on the roster -- Kitna, Josh McCown, Dan Orlovsky and Shaun King -- he expects the job to be won during training camp and the exhibition season.
"I think it works itself out," he said. "It can be done quick or it can be done maybe a little bit later.
"You don't want to say this is a day I want to make (the decision) until you're ready to make it. Everything I've been involved with, it all works itself out."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With the signing of free safety Idrees Bashir, an unrestricted free agent from Carolina, the Lions have addressed most of their obvious off-season needs -- quarterback, offensive line and the defensive secondary.
They did not make a major splash in the free agent market as they have in recent years with signings of cornerback Dre' Bly, guard Damien Woody and strong safety Kenoy Kennedy. That can be interpreted as a belief by team president Matt Millen that the Lions are not as lacking in talent as last year's 5-11 record might indicate and with a fresh coaching approach, the team can improve with the talent on hand.
1. Defensive secondary: The addition of veteran FS Idrees Bashir provides competition for incumbents Terrence Holt and Jon McGraw at FS, but the Lions lost two cornerbacks to free agency and still need depth in that area.
2. Left guard: The Lions have signed three journeymen offensive linemen who will compete with Rick DeMulling at LG and Kelly Butler at RT but it's still up in the air whether they will be better at those positions. The three are Rex Tucker, Barry Stokes and Courtney VanBuren.
3. Linebacker. The Lions have taken fast, athletic linebackers in the past three drafts but they might need more to run defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson's style of attacking defense. In addition, MLB Earl Holmes is 33 and they don't have a sure-fire replacement, whether it's this year or next.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: OT Jeff Backus.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Troy Edwards; S Vernon Fox; C Brock Gutierrez; LB Earl Holmes; WR Kevin Johnson; S Scott McGarrahan; LB Wali Rainer; FB Paul Smith; S Bracy Walker; LB Nate Wayne.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): LB Matt Grootegoed.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB James Davis; TE Casey FitzSimmons; S Terrence Holt; DE Cory Redding.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: WR Glenn Martinez; TE Sean McHugh; RB Artose Pinner.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: RB Shawn Bryson; DE Jared DeVries; WR/KR Eddie Drummond; DE Kalimba Edwards; LS Don Muhlbach; LB LeVar Woods.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: S Idrees Bashir; WR Corey Bradford; TE Dan Campbell; RB Arlen Harris; QB Shaun King; QB Jon Kitna; LB Paris Lenon; QB Josh McCown; OT Barry Stokes; OL Rex Tucker; OT Courtney VanBuren.
PLAYERS LOST: CB Andre' Goodman; OG Kyle Kosier; OG David Loverne; CB R.W. McQuarters.