Ex-Packer receiver off to slow start

Wide receiver Bill Schroeder's first year in Detroit has been injury-riddled and relatively unproductive, to say the least.<p>

The Sheboygan, Wis., native signed with the Lions this past off-season as a free agent, exiting Green Bay on somewhat unsettled terms. Though Schroeder spent seven years with the Packers (three productive years as a regular starter), he was surprised when the Packers showed little to no interest in retaining him, allowing him to move on and start fresh with the Lions.

Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg has not gotten the production he had hoped out of Schroeder thus far, partially due to the receiver's list of various injuries.

Among those injuries were bruised ribs, which kept him out of the Lions' first meeting of the year with the Packers, a 37-31 loss for the home team at new Ford Field. Schroeder is expected to meet his old team, however, Sunday when the Packers play the Lions at Lambeau Field.

Schroeder's other injury problems began in the preseason. He was held out of the preseason finale because of a hip pointer and missed some practice time thereafter. Two weeks later, he missed most of a loss to Carolina when he injured his ribs. He also has missed practice and game time since then with an ankle injury, hamstring injury, and knee injury.

Playing in six of the Lions' eight games has hurt Schroeder's production in Mornhinweg's system, and he had did not have a real standout performance through Week 8. He is tied for fourth among Lions receivers with 14 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown. His totals include a seven-catch performance against the Saints on Sept. 29. He caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Joey Harrington in that game, which played a major role in the outcome - the Lions' first win of the season.

Schroeder has gone without a catch in two games, including the season opener, which was the "lowlight" of his season to date. Not only did the Lions get crushed by the Miami Dolphins, 49-21, but Schroeder was called out by Mornhinweg for not going after a pass aggressively enough over the middle of the field. Mornhinweg's post-game comments drew some attention and were the subject of much conversation in the media, but the receiver and coach talked about the incident soon after to make sure no such situation arose again.

Besides staying healthy for the remainder of the season, Schroeder's biggest challenge will be to make more big plays. Mornhinweg's offense, like most "West Coast" offenses, is predicated on receivers making big runs after the catch to have the most success in the passing game. Thus far, the Lions have gotten most of their big plays through the air from their running backs and tight end Mikhael Ricks.

"I don't worry about big plays," said Harrington. "Big plays just happen. If you start worrying about big plays, that's when you make mistakes. That's when you force balls into bad situations."

The return of wide receiver Germane Crowell (who was activated on Oct. 20 after missing a year due to injury), should help the Lions passing game. If Crowell can bounce back, Schroeder could be pushed out of the starting lineup, where he has been beside fellow free agent and ex-Rams wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim. Hakim has been the Lions' No. 1 passing target.

If Schroeder excelled in one statistical area during his career in Green Bay, it was yards per catch. Last season, he averaged 17.3 yards per catch, tying the Rams' Isaac Bruce for the NFL's best mark among top receivers. He also was tied for the team lead with nine receiving touchdowns and had the Packers' longest pass play of the year, a 67-yard touchdown. In his two prior years as a full-time starter, he averaged 15.4 and 14.2 yards per catch.

"I think he's looking forward to it, especially to come back here for the first time," said Packers' quarterback Doug Pederson, who remains close with Schroeder and last got together with the Sheboygan native during the Lions' bye week four weeks ago.

Packer Report Top Stories