The Vikings will have to be wary of the Lions' special teams once again, as Eddie Drummond is beginning to look like his old Pro Bowl self.
As Eddie Drummond
's role in the Lions passing game diminishes, his production in the return game is increasing.
Is there a connection? Drummond staunchly denied that his focus on winning a wide receiver role had detracted from the job he was doing on punt and kickoff returns, and Lions coach Rod Marinelli said the same thing.
Since the arrival of veteran Az-Zahir Hakim
as the third receiver in the Lions' passing game, however, Drummond is getting less time running routes and he is again churning out yardage as the Lions returner.
Going into the Lions' most recent game Sunday at St. Louis, Drummond was averaging 5.1 yards on eight punt returns and 20.1 yards on 11 kickoff returns, well below the numbers that earned him a Pro Bowl berth two years ago - 13.6 yards on punt returns and 26.6 yards on kickoff returns.
Against the Rams, Drummond had only one punt return for two yards but his kickoff return numbers soared to 210 yards on six returns, an average of 35.0 yards per attempt. Each of the six returns - 23, 41, 31, 23, 65 and 27 yards - was better than his previous season average and boosted his season average to 25.4 yards.
Drummond said a big difference Sunday was the mental approach taken by every player on the kickoff return team. "Once the guys got it rolling, they had the confidence," he said. "And when they had confidence they knew we might break it on any play."
As for his own role, Drummond said that a talk from special teams coach Chuck Priefer helped get him back on track.
"One thing I had to do was just be calm, not try to make big plays happen but let them come to me," he said. "That's something coach Priefer pulled me to the side and told me. He told me I'm not being myself, I'm not waiting for things to happen. Rather I'm trying to go out there and make things happen.
"I've never been like that. I've always just waited and did my job, and big returns came to me. That's one thing I did in this game."
Incidentally, Drummond had no receptions in the game at St. Louis and it appears his role in the passing game will be limited, but the payoff in the return game could more than pick up the slack in providing favorable field position for the Lions offense.
QB Jon Kitna is piling up impressive numbers and the Lions have scored 58 points in the last two games, but the team is still winless after four games thanks to a defense that has given up 106 points in the last three games. Kitna's passing yardage (1,081) and completion percentage (65.3) both are among the best for NFL starting quarterbacks.
RB Kevin Jones still hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game since late in his rookie season (2004) but he appears to be bringing to life the Lions previously dormant running game. After gaining just 79 yards total in the first two games of the season, Jones has had games of 81 and 93 yards against Green Bay and St. Louis to lift his rushing total to 253 yards in four games, with an average of 4.1 yards per rushing attempt.
TE Dan Campbell moved into the starting job when Casey FitzSimmons suffered a broken left wrist in the first pre-season game and Campbell is holding onto the job even though FitzSimmons has returned from the injury. Campbell had just one reception for two yards in the Lions' 41-34 loss at St. Louis but is still averaging 18.0 yards on six receptions in four games.
WR Roy Williams ranks among the NFL receiving leaders after back-to-back games of 138 and 139 yards. In four games, he now has caught 25 passes for 384 yards (15.4 yards per catch average) and a touchdown. Williams has become a big-play threat as he continues to get a handle on the Mike Martz offense being run by the Lions.
WR Mike Furrey continued to develop his role in the Mike Martz offense being run by the Lions, pushing his season total to 22 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Although Roy Williams is the go-to receiver in Detroit's offense, Furrey seems to have gained QB Jon Kitna's confidence as a complementary receiver who is able to get open and seldom drops a pass.
DE Kalimba Edwards' sack on Rams QB Marc Bulger in the Lions' loss Sunday was the defense's first and only sack since registering five in the season opener against Seattle. Opposing quarterbacks have built a 121.9 passer rating against the Lions in the first four games of the season, all losses.
CB Dre' Bly, who had 16 interceptions in his first three seasons with the Lions, has none in the first four games of the current season. Bly has nine passes defensed in the first four games of the season but a lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks has created a coverage problem for the defensive backs.
LB Paris Lenon was not viewed as a likely starter when he was signed by the Lions as an unrestricted free agent during the past off-season but he has become one of the team's most valuable LBs. He started the season at MLB while Boss Bailey completed his comeback from off-season ankle surgery, then moved to SLB when Alex Lewis was injured.
PR/KOR Eddie Drummond is warming up after a slow start on punt and kickoff returns for the Lions. In the past two games he has had kickoff returns of 44 and 65 yards, and a punt return of 13 yards.
WR Az-Zahir Hakim has moved into the No. 3 receiver role with little fanfare but solid production. The Lions signed Hakim after the season opener and, with his awareness of coordinator Mike Martz's offense, he was able to contribute quickly. He has caught five passes for 35 yards in the past two games.