Marinelli Shuffles Starting Defense

Just one week into the regular season, Rod Marinelli is already playing musical chairs with his defensive line up. See who will start, and who won't, as the Detroit Lions prepare for the 1-0 Green Bay Packers. Notes and quotes inside.

He won't call it a benching, or even a line-up change. But expect different faces in Detroit's starting defense during Sunday's home opener against the Green Bay Packers.

Following Wednesday's practice, the team's first since last Sunday's 34-21 drubbing at Atlanta, Marinelli confirmed a handful of moves and sugar coated everything else.

Among the changes: Safety Daniel Bullocks -- now completely recovered from last year's knee injury -- will replace Gerald Alexander in the deep secondary.

Bullocks is a former second-round pick who showed promise last year prior to his injury.

Alexander was not immune from the team's tackling lapse over the weekend. Marinelli said that Bullocks, who missed most of training camp, would be fine.

"Yeah, well he came off of this (last game) no problem, so like I said: we try to up it every week," said Marinelli. "And so he seems to be fine. He practiced all the way today."

Added Marinelli, "He's really a good safety. He's got instincts. He is really a presence in tackling. You could even feel that from our Buffalo preseason game. He's a presence. And he made unbelievable progress. I thought last year's year, before he got hurt you could really see him coming because his range and his speed are so good."

Cornerback Travis Fisher, who dubiously started the entire preseason, will be shelved for multi-million dollar man Leigh Bodden -- a move that screams front office intervention. Bodden struggled to adapt to Detroit's Tampa-2 defense in the off-season, but the thinking is that he can't be any worse than Fisher, who was burnt by rookie Matt Ryan on a 62-yard touchdown pass on Sunday.

Marinelli referred to the change as a "rotation."

"Even though the guy is there, but we're going to rotate the three of them," said Marinelli, referencing cornerback and veteran Brian Kelly.

After bearing the brunt of criticism for the defense's failures, mike (or middle) linebacker Paris Lenon's job seems to be safe -- for the time being. Lenon will start on Sunday, but will be spelled occasionally by rookie Jordon Dizon as Detroit continues to evaluate their rookie second-round pick.

"Yeah, we're looking at playing him a little bit more this week," confirmed Marinelli, who said that Lenon would not be moved to the strongside position if/when Dizon enters the game.

Notebook:

  • WR Brandon Middleton, recently signed, will return punt returns and share kick-off return duty with RB Marcus Thomas for the foreseeable future. It was evident on Sunday that WR Mike Furrey was not comfortable in the role.
  • WR Calvin Johnson isn't going to be ignored by Detroit's offense, which will look to take better advantage of the 6-foot-5 receiver's height and skills than they did against Atlanta.

    "We got it to him seven times last week," said Marinelli. "I think it's hard to say, depends on the balance we're in, what type of balance the game's going. And if you're behind those big guys have to get a little bit more, little bit faster. And plus we have another good receiver in Roy (Williams)."

  • OT Gosder Cherilus, the team's first-round pick in April, will again sit behind veteran RT George Foster. The reasoning? Likely, the presence of Packers' veteran and feared pass rush specialist Aaron Kampman.

    "I think it's a little bit different right now. He's come along fine, but I think George (Foster) is playing well, too," explained Marinelli. "Both of those tackles play pretty well. So we have three."

    "I think what we have to do is if we continue to work out, run the football and that sets everything up for us. So we have to keep this thing close, play our offense, play our defense and we'll be fine. But we have to make sure that if we're running the ball it's going to set up a protection. And we're pass-blocking pretty well right now."


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