Notebook: New roles for Furrey, McDonald?

What role will receivers Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald play now sans Mike Martz? We have the answers inside, along with several team notes from recent practices.

Small inside receivers Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald left St. Louis for Detroit to join their former coach, Mike Martz. And in the reunion they put up impressive numbers.

In 2006, Furrey led the Lions -- and NFC -- with 98 catches. In 2007, McDonald followed and led the Lions with 79 catches. Furrey finished third with 61.

But what role will Furrey and McDonald play now?

Martz has been fired and has joined San Francisco. But Furrey and McDonald have stayed in Detroit, and new offensive coordinator Jim Colletto is taking a different approach.

"I don't think we'll be as much of a focal point as we were in that offense," McDonald said.

"But I can definitely see where I'm going to fit in there and see some of the routes that they've got. It's going to be a good year, I think."

Colletto has simplified the playbook and plans to run the ball much more than Martz did. He also plans to throw to his big outside threats -- Roy Williams, the seventh overall pick in 2004, and Calvin Johnson, the second overall pick in '07.

Furrey and McDonald will have smaller roles, but still significant ones, according to Colletto. Three- and four-wide receiver sets remain in the playbook.

"All that part of the game is still there," Colletto said earlier this offseason. "It's just the numbers of plays are going to be diminished greatly. Those two guys are still going to figure in what we're doing. We want to be able to change constantly."

Colletto said on first-and-10 the Lions won't always trot out two running backs, two wide receivers and a tight end. They will mix up their personnel groups, even if they stick to the same stuff.

"It's going to change," Colletto said. "But the plays won't change."

Under Martz, opponents didn't respect the Lions' running game and would keep their safeties deep. They would bracket Williams and Johnson. That forced the ball underneath to Furrey and McDonald.

Under Colletto, the Lions hope opponents will respect the running game and drop a safety into the box, opening up the field for Williams and Johnson.

McDonald doesn't think that will always happen, though. Teams might still want to take away Williams and Johnson, leaving catches for McDonald and Furrey.

"We've just got to see," McDonald said. "I think some teams will still try to play us like they did last year. It's going to change, I think, weekly."

Colletto also plans shorter drops for his quarterbacks. The ball could come out quickly to the slot receiver.

"I still think the slot's going to be a factor in the game," said McDonald, who is sitting out after minor knee surgery, but should be 100% for training camp. "Every team, if you've got a good slot that's working, that's hard on the defense."

Notebook:

  • Coach Rod Marinelli expects a lot from Dewayne White at right defensive end.

    "Double digits," Marinelli said. White has never had more than 6.5 in a season. But White is now playing the premier pass-rushing position, and Marinelli thinks he can do it.

    "I try never to limit a man," Marinelli said. "I want over double digits. That position has to have that. And is that pressure? You're dang right. Am I going to apply it? You bet. I am going to apply it."

  • Defensive coordinator Joe Barry said linebacker Ernie Sims and defensive tackle Cory Redding had minor shoulder surgeries this offseason. He said it was "totally precautionary" that they weren't practicing in minicamp. They will be reevaluated June 1.

    "They had some little bumps and bruises from the season that they got fixed," Barry said. "If it was training camp, if we were getting ready to go, they would be cleared to go. But we just want to be smart with them."

  • Right tackle George Foster struggled badly last season but offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said he looks "way better" in the Lions' new zone blocking scheme. Foster played in one in Denver. "It's so much easier for him," Colletto said. "This is what he's used to."
  • The Lions will hang up their black jerseys and pull out their old throwback uniforms for two games this season as part of their 75th anniversary celebration. The Lions will wear the throwbacks -- plain silver helmets, plain Honolulu blue and silver jerseys, plain silver pants and plain blue socks -- Nov. 9 against Jacksonville and for their traditional Thanksgiving Day game Nov. 27 against Tennessee.

    The uniforms replace the Lions' black jerseys as their third, or alternate, uniform. Chief operating officer Tom Lewand said the Lions like the black jerseys, but they haven't discussed whether they will wear them after this season and don't have to decide for a while. The Lions also will wear a special patch on the left shoulder of their regular uniforms. It features a diamond, signifying the diamond anniversary, behind a "75" and the Lions logo.

  • The Lions will unveil a 75th anniversary team Nov. 9 to celebrate when the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans moved to Detroit and became the Lions in 1934. It will be selected three ways: Fan voting at detroitlions.com and a retail location to be announced, plus a committee of longtime Lions media members and employees.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's kind of hard to figure out where he's going to get hit from now." -- Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, with a smile, talking about quarterback Jon Kitna's new freedom to move around before throwing the ball.


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