One of the Detroit Lions' biggest concerns entering Sunday's season opener at Oakland was the defense. And although the coaching staff and players were convinced that the defensive line (even with the enigmatic Kalimba Edwards) would relieve the pressures on a questionable secondary, everyone else remained a skeptic.
Everyone else was wrong.
On Sunday, the Lions relegated the Raiders offensive line and starting quarterback Josh McCown into a dink-n-dunk offense, and a series of costly turnovers in the fourth quarter. Edwards finished with two sacks, while fellow defensive end Dewayne White forced two fumbles -- on the same play.
"Dewayne can rush, he can rush," said head coach Rod Marinelli on Monday. "That's why I got him. He's got movement, he can rush and he's athletic. (And) I believe in Kalimba. I've given him the keys to the car, too. He's going to go do it. Guys have got to make plays at that moment.
"I think I talked about it a couple of weeks after the Indy game. We knew what to do, we knew how to do it, we were trying to be physical, but when there is an opportunity to make a play… don't guess, but when your opportunity comes to force the offense to self destruct, you've got to make those plays. You've got to, and they did."
White joined the Lions in the off-season from Tampa Bay, where he previously worked under Marinelli. While Marinelli didn't act surprised by White's stellar performance (despite missing almost the entire preseason), it was Edwards' that was the most pleasing. Entering the year, Edwards publicly admitted that he might not have a job in Detroit next year if he didn't produce big numbers.
It was a concern to both Edwards and the Lions. Detroit's Tampa Two defense requires constant pressure from the defensive end position, and Edwards -- a former second-round pick with a high cap number -- would be relied upon to do something he has never done in his career: be a consistent, every down threat.
He's off to a good start.
"You know, it wasn't just the rushes he had – boy, he was there," said Marinelli. "He could have had a four sack game. He was there quite a bit. He ran the field well; he made some plays down the field. He recovered that fumble late in the game – when Dewayne had the sack fumble and then he (Dewayne) forced another fumble on the same play – Kalimba came all the way across the field, hustling, and made a play."
Marinelli said both ends were complimented well by the carnage that was had by defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. Rogers was disruptive in the middle of the line, allowing the team's ends to narrow their focus around the edge.
"When you're doing that, those ends can take deeper rushes," he said. "All ends, speed ends, like deep rushes. They all like it. They prefer not to have to go inside. If you can get the pocket pushed, and it works, to get four guys equal to one."
While Oakland isn't necessarily a barometer for meteoric success, Edwards and White will have their chance -- and challenge -- against division rival on Minnesota, a team that kept young quarterback Tavaris Jackson spot-free in a sackless performance during a win over Atlanta.