When the opportunity to grab Steve Mariucci became a reality, Matt Millen may have saved many Lions fans from further disappointment, as well as his job.
In Mariucci, the Lions
have secured the services of a coach that has been successful at the
professional level. The offensive minded is a little more conservative in his
offensive approach in comparison to his predecessor, Marty Mornhinweg, a former
offensive coordinator under Mariucci in
The Lions expect to be better on the defensive side of the ball, but it is going to take time. In the off-season the Lions looked to improve their team speed and athleticism, while taking on a more physical approach defensively. The Lions are a developing team, they are a work in progress.
Harrington has the tools
and attitude to be a very successful NFL QB. Not the strongest of arm,
Harrington is the proto-type west coast offense quarterback. Having tremendous
mechanics, an ability to move in the pocket, Harrington will thrive in this
Lions offense, especially under a proven winner, as Mariucci is. Harrington commands respect
in the huddle, an attribute that was lacking on the 2002 Lions team and one that
has quickly become contagious in
Harrington spent last season learning on the fly, playing on a bad football team under a head coach that was overwhelmed. The offensive line must improve in 2003 for Harrington and the Lions to improve in 2003. Last season, Harrington was under an onslaught of pressure from the moment he stepped on the field and performed well, especially for a rookie quarterback.
Behind Harrington sits former starting quarterback Mike McMahon. McMahon does not possess the passing skills of Harrington, but is a very capable backup that has become a favorite of Mariucci due to the fire and passion he brings to the team.
Mariucci loves to run the
football, he strongly believes that the pass and run feed off one another and he
does not want to be a one-dimensional offensive football team. It remains to be
seen just how much the Lions will throw the football in his first year in
James Stewart ran for 1,021 yards and four touchdowns last season, he is the Lions starting running back. Behind Stewart lines up rookie Artose Pinner, Shawn Bryson, and Luke Staley. Pinner, coming of a broken leg may help the team later in the season, Staley has been the most productive of the running backs in Lions camp and may be playing himself onto the roster and Bryson would appear to have the upper-hand to be the team's second running back when he returns from injury. One issue that will be watched closely this season is that neither Stewart nor Bryson are ideally suited for the West Coast offense, much in contrast to the younger athletic running backs Pinner and Staley who are almost dead-ringers for this offense.
Leading the way for Stewart will be fullback Cory Schlesinger. Schlesinger is an excellent lead blocker and will be a factor in the passing game, as the West Coast offense utilizes the fullback in the passing game, when a viable fullback is present.
With the addition of wide
receiver Charles Rogers, the Lions have added a receiver that could develop into
one of the best due to his combination of size, speed, and athletic skills. At
Michigan State, it appeared that Rogers dominated the competition at will,
stardom will not come as easy for Rogers in the NFL, but he has all the physical
tools, as well as having the right quarterback to help him become one of the
most productive receivers in the game. One area of concern that the Lions
coaching staff is working on are that of
Injured tight-end Mikhael
Ricks provides the Lions with a viable option at tight-end, when healthy. The
athletic Ricks has shown the ability to be a threat downfield and should benefit
from the attention that the opposition will pay to
In what the coaching staff has deemed an area that most improve, the offensive line has been under intense scrutiny from the day that Mariucci was named head coach of the Lions. Knowing that Harrington and a young Lions offense will not grow and taste success if he continues to run for his life on a weekly basis, Mariucci is looking for consistency from the offensive line.
Starting at the offensive tackle positions, Jeff Backus at left tackle and Stockar McDougle at right tackle, the Lions lack athleticism on the corners of the line. Both players are much better run-blockers than they are in pass-protection, especially on the right side of the line where McDougle can dominate in the running game. Expect the Lions offense to have a right-handed flavor during the season, with Stewart and Bryson gaining the majority of their yardage running behind McDougle. Matt Joyce is a competent backup for the Lions are the tackle positions.
Questions remain with the
interior of the Lions line. Veteran Ray Brown and Eric Beverly are the starting
guards. Brown, a 40-year old former Pro-Bowl player with the