Lions hope to fix ground game against Pack

The explanations are easy to come by -- a missed assignment, an untimely fumble, a busted play -- but the fact remains that the Lions simply haven't been able to run the football effectively in the first two games of the season.

The explanations are easy to come by -- a missed assignment, an untimely fumble, a busted play -- but the fact remains that the Lions simply haven't been able to run the football effectively in the first two games of the season.

In fact, only one team -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- has been less productive than the Lions, who are averaging a sickly 42 yards per game.

Rod Marinelli can explain it: "You see it -- a block here, a helmet on the wrong side, things are kind of set up a little bit and we're doing just the littlest things (wrong) right now."

And Marinelli knows what the Lions have to do about it.

"We've just got to stick with it," he said. "We got behind (against Chicago) and weren't able to stay with it. We had a couple breakout runs early in the game and then we just -- in terms of attempts -- we didn't get as many attempts after we got behind 24-0, we ended up throwing the ball."

But if there is any one player feeling the anguish of a struggling running game, it is third-year running back Kevin Jones.

In two games, Jones has carried 26 times for 79 yards and has lost three fumbles. In the second half of his rookie season, 79 yards wasn't even a good day's work for Jones and, as for the fumbles, he had lost only one -- total -- in his first two NFL seasons.

Part of the problem could be that the Lions haven't had their first team offensive line together in the first two games. Right tackle Rex Tucker missed the first game recovering from a training camp injury and left guard Ross Verba is expected to play for the first time Sunday against Green Bay.

That might be part of the reason Jones has not run with confidence. He has been tentative at times and, on occasion, he has hit the line going sideways or backwards.

Jones said he was "trying to get skinny" in hitting the hole when he didn't square up to the line of scrimmage but Marinelli suggested: "A couple of times I felt he could have turned it up and got his shoulders north and south."

As for the fumbles, Jones said he wasn't going to become obsessed with the problem.

"I'll be concentrating on it," he said. "I'm not going to harp on it because I know that I'm not going to just give the ball up every game. I've just got to hold on to it."

PLAYER NOTES

  • CB Fernando Bryant, who shared playing time with Jamar Fletcher at LCB in the Lions' game Sunday at Chicago, did not practice Thursday. Coach Rod Marinelli said Bryant did not practice for personal reasons and did not elaborate but it appears he might be splitting the playing time again in the upcoming game against Green Bay.
  • RT Rex Tucker will get his second start Sunday in the Lions' game against Green Bay after missing much of training camp and the preseason with a knee injury. The Lions are hoping the return of Tucker and LG Ross Verba will help get the running game started.
  • LG Ross Verba is listed as questionable for the Lions game Sunday at Green Bay but he participated in most of the practice Thursday and it appears he will get his first start of the season. Verba missed the first two games with a hamstring injury and the Lions are hoping his return will help the running game.
  • RB Kevin Jones has lost three fumbles in the Lions' first two games, one of several problems besetting the team's running game. Jones lost only one fumble in his entire first two seasons in the NFL but this year is averaging only 3.0 yards per rushing attempt and has 79 yards on 26 carries.
  • QB Jon Kitna ranks third among NFL starting quarterbacks with a 65.7 percentage of completion in the Lions' first two games. Kitna is one of seven NFL starters who has not thrown an interception but he is also one of a handful of starters who has not yet thrown a touchdown pass.


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