ALLEN PARK - The belief here is that this will be the season the Detroit Lions make significant cuts of players who have name recognition but haven't
contributed much over the past few years towards the Lions bottom line: winning
New head coach Rod Marinelli has to set the tone in his locker room and on his roster that the players who produce will play and players who don't won't be on the field or on the roster.
Marinelli put the Lions light years ahead when he sent veteran quarterback Joey Harrington packing to Miami in a deal that cleared the air in the clubhouse and paved the way for future success.
While he didn't do it publicly, Marinelli also drew a line in the sand with waffling tackle Dan Wilkinson who clearly was looking to skip the tough Organized Team Activity and much of training camp under the guise of contemplating retirement. If the coach had allowed Wilkinson to pull of his gamut, it would have flown in the face of all the hard work the rest of the guys put in. Wilkinson was given his unconditional release and can now wait until just before the season to show up in Miami with his old teammate Harrington.
But of those were the easy moves, both players were malcontents who didn't really want to be in Detroit. The next moves will be more difficult because they involve players who all have something invested with the franchise. We continue to believe up to six or seven "name" players (including the two aforementioned) won't be here when the team's 53-man roster is announced. While this is nothing more than an educated guess, we've been right so far (with Harrington and Wilkinson), so here's our list of players we believe have a bullseye on their back (in reverse order).
5. Cory Schlesinger:
Of the five names, he's the most likely to escape the ziggy because (1.) he's given the organization everything he has and (2.) is a great role model and is willing to play special teams. Still, he's 34 years old and has diminishing skills and worse, the offensive coordinator doesn't know where to put him. If he can be a productive special teamer, he has a shot, if not, he might be asked to retire and take a shot at coaching.
4. Mike Williams:
Williams doesn't seem to like it in Detroit and he hasn't really made a case for himself on the football field, either. He's slower than most of the players at his position and continues to be slowed even more by nagging injuries. His continued discipline problems are troublesome. Currently, he's so far down the depth chart he can't see daylight. If Williams doesn't shape up, the former top 10 pick could be on the block or even outright released.
3. Terrence Holt:
Holt got his big chance a season ago and didn't run with it. He struggled in coverage and got beaten for some big plays. Detroit spent its second round pick on rookie Daniel Bullocks who will surely start, but Holt has an ace up his sleeve. He's a great special teams player that has a knack for the football and especially for blocking kicks. But the presence of two-way threat Mike Furrey and the signing of veteran Idrees Bashir make Holt's chances dicey.
2. Rick DeMulling:
DeMulling's departure was almost assured when Detroit inked veteran Ross Verba and immediately inserted him with the "ones." Verba will team with Damien Woody to give Detroit its best set of guards in ages. The former Idaho standout was a huge disappointment after signing as a free agent from the Indianapolis Colts and lost his starting job to journeyman Kyle Kosier who signed on with Dallas. With Tyrone Hopson and rookie Fred Matua (who's available to go to the practice squad), DeMulling's saving grace is that he is the only true guard in reserve with playing experience but even that might not save him from the "ziggy."
1. Artose Pinner:
Color him gone. Pinner, who was a favorite of Steve Mariucci's staff, finds himself as a player in search of a role under Marinelli and Martz. A plodding slasher, he's dropped to fourth string (Kevin Jones, Arlen Harris, Brian Calhoun) in the new offense and doesn't seem to be too worried about it. Unless a string of injuries hit, Pinner is probably already looking around to see which teams might be interested in a straight ahead tough runner with something left in the tank.