Growth despite losing in Detroit

There is a silver-lining underneath the losses of the Detroit Lions this season.

A season opening victory may have led to some immediate unrealistic expectations for a Detroit Lions team that is far from a finished product. Being far from a legitimate contending team, the latest Detroit loss should be viewed as one that really defines the direction of this team.


The loss of starting running back James Stewart to shoulder surgery has been a setback to the Lions. Stewart, while not the proto-typical West Coast offense type of running back provided the team with the semblance of a rushing attack. Olandis Gary, the running back the Lions traded for late in training camp has hugely been a disappointment and while Shawn Bryson has the ability to be a serviceable back, he has not shown the ability to be a consistent or game-changing running back this team direly needs.


Without a threat of a running game, the Lions are forced to place the game into the hands of second-year quarterback Joey Harrington. During the first quarter of the Lions recent 23-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit was able to run the ball effectively against a much-improved Minnesota defense. The immediate results were promising, as the Lions were able to keep the Vikings defense honest and the Lions were able to move the football, jumping out to a quick 10-0 lead.


Once the Vikings made the defensive adjustments to commit to stopping the run and putting the ball solely in Harrington's hands, the tides quickly changed and the Lions struggled.


But, the reality of the Lions showed its face, the problems facing this team are evident, while the progress this team has made under head coach Steve Mariucci is obvious.


Mariucci has his Lions team playing under control. Slowly this Detroit bunch is grasping the fundamentals, but quality and depth across the roster is an issue that limits the number of victories this team will secure in this season. The growth of this Lions team should not be gauged in wins and losses, not this season. Consistency and improvement should be the barometer utilized when evaluating this first-season under the successful Mariucci.


When looking closely at the Detroit Lions early in this 2003 season, it may appear that Harrington and the offense has regressed. That thought may hold true of the latter, bit in the case of Harrington, the supporting cast is not in place where he can be a consistent playmaker.


Sporting an offensive line that is average at best and no rushing attack to speak of, the opposition has shown the tendency to tee-off on the young quarterback, pressuring him into bad decisions, as Harrington is attempting to carry this team. For as much potential and ability Harrington provides, he is not in the stage of his game where he can carry a team.


For this Lions team to be successful, they will need to improve the talent along the offensive line, provide Harrington will additional weapons at the receiver position, and fill the most pressing issue, find a running game. All is easier said than done, but one thing is assured here. The 2003 season is step-one in laying the foundation to what should become a special team in Detroit.

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