Marinelli voices faith in defensive line

Despite a heavy week of preparations before Sunday's tilt at Minnesota, Rod Marinelli didn't talk on Friday as though he was bringing a winless, 0-4 squad into one of the league's more intimidating stadiums -- and a place the Lions haven't won at in eight years. Much more inside from Friday's practice.

Maybe Rod Marinelli didn't get the memo.

Despite a heavy week of preparations before Sunday's tilt at division rival Minnesota, the Lions' head coach didn't talk as though he was bringing a winless, 0-4 squad into one of the league's more intimidating stadiums -- and a place the Lions haven't won at in eight years.

"I'm really more excited - I can't wait," Marinelli said Friday, adding that he was even more interested in how his defensive line would perform. "I thought we had some great energy this week. I'm cranked up.

"(We want to) set the pace and set the tempo and I believe the (defensive line) is going to do that. I'm tingling, I'm ready to go."

If they have watched any tape, it's common knowledge that the Vikings (2-2) will look to expose Detroit's anemic pass defense. Entering the contest, the Lions are allowing a league-high 71.3 completion percentage by opposing quarterbacks. But the root of the secondary issues isn't necessarily defensive back play, but a defensive line that hasn't registered a traditional sack in the last three games.

Since the team returned to practice following Sunday's loss to St. Louis, the focal point in both team meetings and on the field has been to establish pressure on Minnesota quarterback Brad Johnson. Johnson has completed 59 percent of his passes this season, including two touchdowns and three interceptions.

"We just started tightening some (coverage) things up," said Marinelli. "We went back in and we just re-taught everything again. In the meeting, re-teach the fine points and show where we've messed up and teach it and go through it again. I want that front helmet. I want to turn grass off the ground."

A former defensive line coach, Marinelli is aware that Johnson's quick strike ability will have to be neutralized early.

"What I want to do is take internal pressure right up the pipe - boom," he said. "I want to come up that pipe. If he (Brad Johnson) gets rid of it, he's going to be backing up. We got to come off the ball, that's what we've got to be able to do, and that's what we're going to do and that's the plan."

Marinelli was encouraged with the defensive line's progress in practice. Throughout the week, Lions' offensive coordinator Mike Martz had quarterback Jon Kitna get rid of the ball quickly to simulate what to expect from opponents. The result was a higher octane practice that did yield some positives, although the enthusiastic Marinelli will remain cautiously optimistic.

"We'll find out Sunday," he said. "I'm excited. I can't wait; I got my track shoes on and I'm ready to go. I'm excited and I'm really looking forward to this whole thing, and I'm just as positive as I've ever been.

"We had a great meeting this morning - the things I see, the encouraging things. We just clean up a couple things on our pass defense and we're going to rock and we're going to go - just going to keep pushing them and driving them."

NOTEBOOK:

  • CB Fernando Bryant might not return to his starting gig afterall. Although he is likely to be active for Sunday's game, he is still nursing a hamstring injury. "We need to talk one more day and see how everybody's feeling," said Marinelli on Bryant's status.
  • WR Mike Williams, the Lions' first-round pick in the 2005 draft, has been active for only two of the team's first four games and still hasn't had a pass thrown his way, but coach Rod Marinelli said he has practiced well and has stepped up his work habits. Coaches have said complimentary things about Williams earlier this season, however, but they have not yet translated into a meaningful role for him in the offense.
  • LB Donte' Curry is living up to his responsibility as one of the Lions' five team captains. Curry, the special teams captain, is leading the team in special teams tackles with nine in the first four games and is also seeing action in a backup role at middle linebacker.
  • CB Dre' Bly, a two-time Pro Bowler, is due for an interception. In his first three seasons with the Lions, he never went more than four games without an interception. He leads the Lions with nine passes defensed in the first four games but is still without an interception in 2006.
  • LB Ernie Sims, the Lions' first-round draft pick in April, is leading the team with 44 tackles through the first four games. He currently has 19 tackles more than MLB Boss Bailey, who is second on the team.

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