Mornhinweg wants to fix sack rate, but can he?

Lions' head coach Marty Mornhinweg admitted the team is allowing too many sacks, but says part of that is due to having inexperienced players. Mornhinweg also says fixing the problem is his main focus, but the question remains, does he have the material to fix the problem?

(ALLEN PARK, MI)--"You saw us play," said Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg. "Some of the stats were good, some were very bad.. on paper."

One of those stats, sixty-six quarterbacks sacks in one season, was one of the very bad ones.

So how do you fix that problem? Spend a high draft choice on a player? Spend some precious free agent dollars on a fix? Hope the players you have get better?

The Detroit Lions decided to take the latter route. They figured they would have a healthy Stockar McDougle ready to take over at right tackle. Jeff Backus, their #1 pick in 2001 would have a year under his belt. Their second-round pick Dominic Raiola would have a year of much needed experience--especially after coming from a run-oriented offense like Nebraska--and would be able to contribute.

Having signed Tony Semple and with holdovers Brenden Stai, Matt Joyce and Kerlin Balise, the Lions likely felt that they would likely be a little better and would improve on their performance of last year.

But when the curtain came up on the preseason vs the Baltimore Ravens, the results were similar, if not worse, eight quarterbacks sacks of quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Mike McMahon.

"We pulled those eight sacks out [of the film] and looked at it very carefully with the staff and with the team" said Mornhinweg. "And half of them--and we can make a lot of excuses up--but they were mental breakdowns and we just can't have that."

Now, add injury to insult.

Oft injured tackle Stockar McDougle is out again, this time two-to-four weeks with a "grade two" MCL strain, according to Mornhinweg.

Matt Joyce, who normally would take McDougle's spot, is still hobbled by a knee injury. So Kerlin Blaise, who has only started only four games in his five year career, will get the start against the Cleveland Browns on Friday.

"Kerlin was really competing and making a strong push at the guard spot. So it's really a move that I didn't want to do. But Matt Joyce just simply is not going to be ready for this game."

"You saw that Matt took some pass rushes today. If he reacts well to that, tonight and tommorrow morning, then he'll take some 9-on-7 tommorrow. And we'll keep on gradually progressing him. I would expect Matt Joyce to play in the third preseason game as long as we don't have any setbacks there."

In Mornhinweg's first year, the projected starting front five was Jeff Backus, who did play all sixteen games at left tackle, Stockar McDougle at left guard, Eric Beverly at center, Brenden Stai at right guard and Aaron Gibson at right tackle. Gibson was released midway through the season and McDougle was injured most of the year.

How can the Lions put together a cohesive unit if they can't keep the same five guys on the field?

"Well, we had a little dinner meeting as an offensive staff to discuss that exact situation and what the best moves would be and how we could accomplish that. It has not been concern up to now. When we get a guy that's going to be lost for an extended period of time. We're continuing to discuss it and it has been a concern for the last, let's say 12-to-18 hours."

So what are they going to do to get the situation fixed?

Having already explained part of the problem as 'mental breakdowns' Mornhinweg continued, "the other half of those sacks, we missed some switches on some 'games', we just weren't quick enough at that, so we can correct that as well. Then the quarterbacks were responsible for one apiece. Totally, totally theirs."

"We simply have to get the football out and that is my main focus right there. If you go through a year and you cut your sacks out and you go give a half a sack or a whole sack or how ever you want to grade it out, the quarterbacks in every system lead the team in sacks. Because they don't get the football out. So that's my main focus right there, my quarterbacks have to get the football out."

Mornhinweg has a point, but how quickly can you get rid of the ball and complete a pass?

If for no other reason than self-preservation, the Lions quarterbacks would be smart to heed the coaches advice.

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