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2006 Detroit Lions Preview

By Robert Ferringo of Doc's Sports Journal Jon Kitna. Mike Martz. Roy Williams. Rod Marinelli. Matt Millen. Carlos Rogers. There are a lot of guys with something to prove in the Detroit Lions organization this year. This will be the season where we find out what kind of heart - if any - this club has.

With the hiring of a fresh coach and 10 original coordinators and assistants, it's all about new beginnings in the Motor City. But at the same time, it's the last chance for a lot of highly touted players to make their mark in the league. There is talent on this team. Which doesn't mean much in the NFL because Talent is like shoulder pads - everyone's got some. But Detroit has a decent blend of youth and experience, playmakers and role players, and for once there may be reason for some optimism.

Of course, it's tough to feel good about a team that's gone 21-59 the last five years. Real tough. And I wouldn't say that I feel good about the Lions this year, especially since they've looked like trash during the preseason. But if they can get a grip on their new schemes and play with the toughness this organization has been lacking, I think they could be a legit sleeper team this season, and could be that late-season money team that's always fun to catch.

Here's Doc's 2006 Detroit Lions Preview:

  • 2005 Record: 5-11 (3-5 home, 2-6 road)
  • 2005 Rankings: 27th offense (26th pass, 26th rush); 20th defense (13th pass, 24th rush)
  • 2005 Against the Spread: 9-7 (4-4 home, 5-3 road); 6-8-2 vs. total (3-3-2 h, 3-5 r)
  • 2006 Odds: 100/1 to win SB, 35/1 to win NFC, 5.5/1 to win NFC North, 6.5 wins O/U
  • 2006 Strength of Schedule: 25th (.473 opp. win %)
  • Key stat: A Mike Martz-led offense has not finished below fifth in the NFL in passing since the start of the 1999 season. In that seven-year span his offense averaged 380.7 yards per game, tops in the league.
Returning starters: 16 (8 offense, 8 defense)
Key acquisitions: Jon Kitna, QB (from Cincy); Idrees Bashir, S (from Indy); Corey Bradford, WR (from Houston); Josh McCown, QB (from Arizona); Barry Stokes, OT (from Atlanta); Rex Tucker, OT (from STL); Jamar Fletcher, CB (from S.D.); Dan Campbell (from Dallas); Ernie Sims, LB (draft).
Key departures: Earl Holmes, LB; Joey Harrington, QB; Kevin Johnson, WR; R.W. McQuarters, CB; Wali Rainer, LB; Kyle Kosier, OG.

Offense: The Harrington Era has ended, and the Kitna Era begins. Man, that's awkward. Now that Martz won't have to worry about mismanaging the clock, his challenges, and timeouts, and he can just focus on designing and calling plays, I think he can kick start a stagnant unit. The buzz is that Roy Williams has looked focused and is poised for a breakout year. The line is small but quick and the Lions will try to run on the edges more. That could mean more big plays and higher scoring, but it can also mean Detroit will have trouble closing games by pounding the ball.

Defense: With Shaun Rogers and James Hall in their primes, the Lions have a ferocious front four. Also, the secondary has been better than their numbers indicate over the past two seasons. The rush defense surrendered 4.2 yards per carry, which was one of the worst in the league. But if their linebackers can stay healthy, that should improve. Trouble is, Teddy Lehman is already gimpy and Boss Bailey is one wrong move away from busting his ankle again.

X-factor: Jones. He's put up solid numbers, but the running back will have to take it to another level this year. Detroit had just four runs of over 20 yards last year (2nd worst) and averaged just 3.6 yards per run.

Outlook: The team is learning completely new schemes on both sides of the ball. It's going to take some time to come together, if it does at all. But if the offense could score some points and take the pressure off a decent defense, the Lions could be in business. Three of their first five games are on the road. If they can make it through that stretch they have a soft spot in their schedule - Week 6-10. If they can post a 6-3 or a 5-4, they could have the confidence to make a run down the stretch.

Questions and comments for Robert? E-mail him at robert@docsports.com.

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