Williams among Lions under microscope

At this stage of the season, all the Lions are looking for are a few signs of encouragement. A few more catches for Mike Williams, who has spent most of the season in Mike Martz's doghouse for being overweight or not working hard enough in practice or being too slow, is a good start.

At this stage of the season, all the Lions are looking for are a few signs of encouragement.

A few more catches for Mike Williams, who has spent most of the season in Mike Martz's doghouse for being overweight or not working hard enough in practice or being too slow.

Some playing time for guard Stephen Peterman, who wasn't even on the roster until a few days ago.

A chance for quarterback Jon Kitna to cement his leadership role with a couple of game-changing plays before he goes home for the winter.

Of course, the Lions would like to finish the season with a couple of wins -- at home against Chicago on Christmas Eve and at Dallas on New Year's Eve -- but even wins against two probable playoff teams wouldn't save them from another lost season.

At 2-12, they are already slotted to have an early pick in the first round of the draft next April and they are already assured of the indignity of a sixth consecutive season of double-digit losses.

Whether it's 2-14 or 3-13 or 4-12 makes little difference except, perhaps, in the mind of coach Rod Marinelli, who is still trying to hammer home the idea that hard work and a commitment to doing things the right way will eventually pay dividends.

So it becomes a topic of conversation when Williams, who came into the game with just one reception for seven yards in the first 14 games, makes three catches for 42 yards (and lost a nine-yarder to a pass interference call against Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson) in the 17-9 loss to the Packers.

"About the last four weeks, I thought each week in practice he's been getting better," Marinelli said. "How he's doing and how he's performing. As he grows you can see the impact he can have for us.

"I mean, that's a positive. I just want to keep encouraging him to get better, to do things right every day, how he practices and prepares. As he can see, we need him ..."

It is the kind of encouraging commentary Williams has heard occasionally from Marinelli or Martz, only to find himself back on the bench after an apparent missed assignment in an infrequent game appearance or the suggestion from a coach that he is not able to supply the speed the Lions need from their receivers.

With no less than three starting offensive linemen and three defensive linemen -- plus several backup players -- on injured reserve, there is an opportunity for inexperienced young players to make a showing for themselves.

Peterman, a second-year guard from LSU who was signed to the Lions' practice squad in mid-October, was one of those young players who got extended playing time at Green Bay.

"We were planning on that," Marinelli said. "He'd been really practicing well ... he's a big, thick guy. He's a good player."

Marinelli has indicated he doesn't consider it experimentation for the 2007 season when he plays young players like Peterman, undrafted guard Frank Davis or defensive linemen Anthony Bryant and Corey Smith. They have earned the playing time, Marinelli says, and -- after all the injuries -- there is a need for them to step up and play.

For Kitna, the veteran quarterback who is responsible for running the Lions offense, the rewards are fewer and farther between.

Against the Packers, he was sacked six times, intercepted twice, lost a fumble and finished the game with a 42.9 passer rating. He was able to get only one pass to his best receiver -- Roy Williams -- in part because of the Packers' tactics on Williams and in part because his protection wasn't good enough to allow him to hold the ball long enough for Williams to get open.

With just two games remaining, it's hard to see the Lions overcoming all of their injury problems, correcting all of their mistakes and showing Marinelli they're on the right track toward 2007.

In lieu of all of a major turnaround, they'll have to settle for a few encouraging signs. And just hope they can find some.

PLAYER NOTES
QB Jon Kitna's turnover woes continued Sunday in the Lions' 17-9 loss at Green Bay with two interceptions and a lost fumble. It was the 12th consecutive game in which he has been intercepted at least once and it marked the seventh time in those 12 games he has been intercepted at least twice in a game. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is now two-to-three.

RB Arlen Harris, in his third start of the season as the backup for Kevin Jones, managed only 18 yards on nine carries but caught five passes for 33 yards in the Lions' 17-9 loss Sunday at Green Bay. With Jones on injured reserve after surgery to repair a Lisfranc foot injury, Harris is expected to get the starting assignment in the remaining two games.

WR Mike Williams had his most productive game of the season Sunday with three receptions for 42 yards in the Lions' 17-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Another nine-yard catch was nullified by a defensive pass interference call against Packers CB Charles Woodson. Williams had only one catch for seven yards in the previous five games in which he played or dressed. He was inactive for seven games.

CB Jamar Fletcher joined FS Terrence Holt and CB Dre' Bly as the Lions' interception leaders with his third of the season and second in as many games Sunday in the 17-9 loss to Green Bay. The three interceptions are the most Fletcher has had in six NFL seasons.

CB Dre' Bly is making up for lost time in the interception department. Bly, who had, six, four and six respectively in his first three seasons with the Lions got his third of the season Sunday in the 17-9 loss to Green Bay. It was his second in the last three games and his third in seven games.


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