As the conclusion to the 2006 season rapidly approaches the Detroit Lions
will attempt to heal the wounds of a horrid year. However, in order to stop the
bleeding they'll have to stop the run.
The Lions struggles all season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, are well documented. They currently rank 26 in total defense, surrendering 348 yards per game. The Lions 22 ranked run defense may be the biggest contributing factor to the overall inadequacy – an inadequacy that is spurred by the absence of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.
Shaun Rogers hasn't played since Week 6, when he was suspended for violating the National Football League's steroids and related substances policy. He would have been eligible to return after missing four weeks; however, the two-time Pro Bowler underwent knee surgery during his suspension. His knee hasn't progressed as well as the Lions had envisioned and he was placed on the Injured Reserve list, effectively ending his season.
One player that may have locked horns with Rogers this week, Minnesota Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson, understands the magnitude of the loss.
"He's one of the top guys," said Hutchinson. "He runs like an end but he's as big as all can be. That's obviously a disappointment - putting him on IR. He's a great player and leader of that defense. He is one of the top defensive tackles in the league."
Hutchinson's sentiments echo that of many around the Lions organization; however, words cant sum up the loss as well as numbers can.
In the six weeks prior to Rogers' suspension the Lions allowed only 94 rushing yards per game, while surrendering only 3.6 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Without Rogers in the lineup the Lions have allowed an average of 148 rushing yards per game, while surrendering 4.9 yards per carry to opposing running backs. The Lions ranked 10 in the league in rush defense before the suspension and rank 26 after.
Perhaps even more telling, the Lions faced more
quality running back before they lost Rogers – running backs such as; Shawn
Alexander, Thomas Jones, Ahman Green, Steven Jackson, Chester Taylor and Willis
MgGahee. Since the injury the Lions have only faced two running backs that rank
in the top 15 in rushing yards (Running backs Frank Gore and Warrick Dunn).
The Lions will take this opportunity to look at other players at the defensive tackle position.
"We have a couple young guys who are going to play this week up in the middle," Said Lions head coach Rod Marinelli. "The big (defensive tackle Anthony) Bryant kid, we're looking at him. So I'm excited to see some of these guys get ready to go and see what they got."
Marinelli will spend the remainder of the season building for next year as he attempts to get this organization back on track. He's hoping that Rogers plays a big role in that.
"Hopefully we'll get him cleaned up right now," said Marinelli. "Get all of the surgeries he needs to happen, get everything, get him rehabbed and get him ready for the off-season. Hopefully he sees the direction we're going and he can be a force in this thing."
In addition to putting Rogers on Injured Reserve the Lions also placed WR Glenn Martinez on the practice squad reserve/injured list and signed WR Craphonso Thorpe to the practice squad.
The following players have been listed on the Detroit Lions' injury report: DT Shaun Rogers (knee/IR) and CB Fernando Bryant (concussion) are out. WR Devale Ellis (shoulder) and LB Teddy Lehman (hamstring) are questionable. T Jeff Backus (foot) is probable. Backus, Bryant and Lehman all missed a portion of team practice today.
The Vikings boost the league's top run defense, allowing only 58 yards per
game. The Last time the Lions faced the Vikings, Lions running back Kevin Jones
rushed 10 times for eight yards and the Lions produced only 16 rushing yards
(Jones' yards plus an eight yard run by quarterback Jon Kitna).