Nate Caminata (A): Marinelli’s approach has been more of mindset than substance, which is necessary for a franchise defined only by failure. While the Lions have made significant roster moves, it is Marinelli’s hard-line, “Pound the Rock” attitude that will be instrumental in not just the team’s future, but the future of the organization. It is quite the opposite of how Steve Mariucci ran the team, an odd coaching method in which the staff allowed the inmates to run the asylum.
The response from the squad, to this point, seems to be supportive, but it is a long-season; and the team’s results will likely reflect whether or not they have bought into Marinelli’s philosophy.
Q: Speaking of the front office…well, we will dispense with the cracks about Matt Millen. Why does this guy still have such a high place in the Lions’ hierarchy? And is there any reason to be encouraged about the future of his time at the helm?
A: No. And no (although I would have allowed – maybe encouraged -- the Millen cracks). From the trade of Joey Harrington to the recent release of Charles Rogers (and the pending failure of Mike Williams), the franchise is suffering from the obvious: the appointment – and perplexing contract renewal – of a team president with absolutely no National Football League organizational experience … at all.
Unfortunately, when you have two wasted top five picks in consecutive drafts, it will set the organization back. For how long? Who knows. But if the mistakes at the top of the franchise continue, the light at the end of the tunnel will remain off.
Q: Seahawks fans remember new Lions QB Jon Kitna well. How is he doing in Detroit, what does he bring to the team, and where do you see the quarterback situation in the end?
A: Kitna didn’t waste much time establishing himself as the unquestioned leader of not only the offense, but also in the club house. He immediately put separation between himself and alleged competitor Josh McCown by impressing offensive coordinator Mike Martz during off-season workouts, and continued that progress into training camp and the preseason. He has a firm handle on both Martz’s offense and the starting position, and it seems unlikely that he’ll receive a legitimate challenge this year.
Detroit is confident in Kitna’s abilities, and if he’s able to duplicate his 2003 performance (the last year he started all 16 games, posting an 87.4 QB rating), the quarterback position in Detroit will finally be in capable hands.
Q: Running back Kevin Jones had a disappointing season in 2005 – was that more on Jones or his supporting cast? What’s being done to improve the Detroit running game?
A: Jones’ struggles last year were due to several reasons. Primarily, it was a dubious running back-by-committee employed by Mariucci. Mariucci never seemed interested in getting the most out of Jones, who received 20 or more carries in just three of the 13 games that he played. Jones also dealt with a few nagging injuries during the season, and when he did carry the ball, defenses stacked the line with an obvious lack of interest in Detroit’s anemic passing game.
In 2006, the Lions will turn to Jones frequently. It is an afterthought that 20-plus carries will be part of the norm, and he’ll also be used occasionally in passing situations, showing versatility that was never tapped with the previous staff. Add former Packers’ offensive line coach Larry Beightol to the mix, and Jones could enjoy similar success to that of his rookie campaign.
Q. With the release of Charles Rogers, how do the Detroit receivers look? Are there real weapons, or just more players with potential and little production? Does Rogers bring anything to a team who might want to sign him?
A: Anytime you lose a talent like Rogers, it lessens the ability of the receiving corps, but given Marinelli’s philosophy it was unquestionably addition by subtraction. The team still poses Roy Williams, an All World talent, and a capable supporting cast in veterans Corey Bradford, Mike Furrey and Eddie Drummond. And if Mike Williams decides to realize his talent, the receiving core in Detroit will be fine.
Rogers, meanwhile, unfortunately seems to be a player that will only try hard enough to earn a paycheck. His issues in Detroit were self-centric, a person given millions of dollars with no real interest in taking his career to the next level. With Rogers, it was never an issue of ability, it was a problem with attitude. A change of scenery isn’t likely to help.