Detroit Lions Notebook: Gameday preparations

Although the Lions looked ragged, going 1-3, they certainly didn't give anything away in the preseason. The Seahawks are obviously aware of Martz's voluminous playbook but have no way of knowing what to expect in the season opener. Complete pregame notebook inside.

It happens every two or three years in these parts and now it's Rod Marinelli's turn to launch a new era of Detroit Lions football.

If he can win seven games, it will be a high-water mark in the administration of president Matt Millen, who has presided over the hiring and firing of two coaches -- Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci -- and watched the floundering franchise produce 21 victories in 80 games over a span of five seasons.

The belief is that Marinelli is just what the Lions need in this difficult time. That theory will get its first meaningful test Sunday in the season opener against defending NFC champion Seattle at Ford Field in Detroit.

The Lions will be noticeably tougher. They will be infinitely more disciplined. They will no longer be a soft football team.

But can they win? That is still the question to be determined over the course of the next 17 weeks.

Despite the intensity and hard work to which the Lions were subjected during the off-season workouts and training camp, there was little evidence in the four preseason games that Marinelli and his coordinators -- Mike Martz on offense and Donnie Henderson on the defense -- have gotten little more than a toehold on the job they undertook last winter.

The Lions won only one of their preseason games while learning the new system, and frequently looked ragged.

On the other hand, they certainly didn't give anything away in the preseason. The Seahawks are obviously aware of Martz's voluminous playbook but have no way of knowing what to expect in the season opener.

As quarterback Jon Kitna noted after getting the first game plan of the season Wednesday: "We have a few new wrinkles but it's not that much different. We've been having over 200 plays a week during the preseason. We just haven't used them."

They're almost certain to bring out more than they have shown in the dreary preseason but it's doubtful they will get all of the wrinkles -- new or old -- ironed out in their first test against the team that played its last meaningful game on Feb. 5 in the Super Bowl.

The best the Lions and their long-suffering fans can hope for is that the first game will be only a starting place for a team on its way up, that the Lions will follow in the footsteps of the Miami Dolphins of 2005, starting slow and gaining momentum as the new coach's system kicks in.

"I think we're comfortable," Kitna said. "Are you ever satisfied or content? (Do I ever think), 'yeah, we've got this.' No, I don't think that. I think we'll get better each week but I think we have a good chance to win this one."

Marinelli, a career position coach until the Lions called him eight months ago, admits he's eager to get to his first game as a head coach.

"Not so much butterflies as I'm really anxious," he said, in response to a reporter's question about feeling butterflies for the Seattle game. "All the things you believe in as a coach -- everything I believed from day one, the whole time -- I get a chance to see it come, see if the habits are there. That's what I'm really wired in on."

SERIES HISTORY: This is the tenth meeting between the Lions and Seattle with the Seahawks holding a 5-4 margin in victories. The Lions are 2-1 at home against Seattle but this will be the first meeting of the two teams at Ford Field. The Seahawks won the last game, 35-14, at Seattle in 2003.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's everything and more. It feels good, I see it on TV all the time but now it's actually happening and I'm being asked about last year's offensive MVP. That's really exciting." -- Rookie linebacker Ernie Sims on preparing for his first NFL regular season game against the Seattle Seahawks and running back Shaun Alexander.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

  • QB Jon Kitna was virtually unchallenged for the starting job but he will have to raise his performance level if he is to get the most out of coordinator Mike Martz's offense. In limited preseason action, he completed just 51.3 percent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception, good for a 67.6 passer rating.
  • DT Shaun Rogers will be getting his first action of the year when the Lions meet Seattle in their regular season opener Sunday. Rogers suffered a shoulder injury early in training camp and did not play a down in four exhibition games. He is coming off a Pro Bowl season, however, and is the key to any success the Lions might be expecting from their front seven.
  • OT Rex Tucker is listed as the starting RT but might not know until game day whether he will start in the season opener against Seattle. Tucker missed all of the preseason with a knee injury and, although he is healthy now, it is possible the Lions will start backup Barry Stokes and bring Tucker off the bench.
  • OT Barry Stokes is considered a quality backup for at both G and T on the Lions offensive line but he might get the start at RT in the season opener Sunday against Seattle. Projected starter Rex Tucker is recovering from a knee injury and missed the entire preseason; although Tucker is healthy now, Stokes might be more game ready.
  • CB Dre' Bly, the Lions most explosive playmaker because of his interceptions and ability to return them, was the team's most outspoken critic of QB Joey Harrington a year ago after Steve Mariucci was fired in mid-season. Bly's comments apparently did not hurt his standing with his teammates; they elected him one of two defensive co-captains for 2006.

    GAME PLAN
    If the Lions are to have any chance of upsetting Seattle, they have to find a way to contain the Seahawks' potent running game featuring RB Shaun Alexander. DT Shaun Rogers, who missed all of training camp and the preseason with a shoulder injury, has to dominate inside and defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson has to get his young linebackers swarming after Alexander.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH
    Lions DE James Hall vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones. Hall is a blue collar worker extraordinaire but he will be playing against Jones, who is considered one of the NFL's best pass blockers.

    Lions WLB Ernie Sims vs. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander. Sims, the Lions' first-round draft pick, will be starting his first NFL game against Alexander, the league's offensive MVP last season. If the Lions hope to limit the Seattle offense, it starts with stopping the run.

    Lions RB Kevin Jones vs. Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu. One of offensive coordinator Mike Martz's mandates when he took the job last February was to establish a running game. Jones is coming off a disappointing second NFL season and Tatupu is a big playmaker in the Seattle defense.

    INJURY IMPACT: Casey FitzSimmons, who was the starting TE when he broke his wrist early in the preseason, and rookie WR Shaun Bodiford (knee), a solid special teams player, both will miss the opener. DT Shaun Cody (shoulder) is probable. LB Teddy Lehman and WR Scottie Vines entered the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.


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