2 Detroit Lions

The Motor City makeover brings a new coach, a new offense, a new quarterback and-most important-a new attitude
September 03, 2006

THE BELIEF
First, addition by subtraction. Touchy-feely coach Steve Mariucci is gone after15 wins in less than three seasons. Quarterback Joey Harrington and hisunfulfilled potential were shipped off to Miami. Now a team in need of toughlove is getting it from new coach and Vietnam vet Rod Marinelli. An offensewith talent will flourish in the hands of coordinator Mike Martz. And face it,the Lions are due. Their last playoff win was 16 years ago; before that, in1957.

THE REALITY
There's little doubt that the Lions will be a tougher team. Predictably,Marinelli ran a physical, no-nonsense camp, at one point sending his playersthrough five straight days of two-a-day practices in full pads. "We want tobe physical," says Marinelli. "We want to run the ball on offense andtrample the run on defense. The only way you can prepare to do those things isin pads."

It is a classicformula, as old as team sports: Replace a soft coach with a tough one."Look, I was a big fan of Mooch," veteran cornerback Dré Bly says ofMariucci, "but things just got out of control, and he got fired because ofit. Matt [Millen, club president] brought in a coaching staff that he thinkscan get the most out of guys, and that's key because the talent differences inthis league are small."

Left tackle JeffBackus has spent all five of his NFL seasons with Detroit, losing 38 more gamesthan he has won. "What Coach Marinelli has demanded from us, the way thewhole staff has worked, has been unbelievable," says Backus. "But wewon't know where we stand until something goes wrong. We've had a tendency tolose hope when things go bad."

To cure theoffense, which ranked 27th in the NFL, Marinelli turned things over to Martz, anifty bit of ego sublimation that will be tested in times of crisis. "It'snot about me, it's about the Lions," says Marinelli. Martz's attack will berun by Jon Kitna, whose solid 2003 season in Cincinnati was rewarded with abenching in favor of Carson Palmer. Kitna is a respected workhorse but only36-43 as a starter in his nine-year career. Few Lions doubt that he will be anupgrade from Harrington. "Good leadership, smart player, very few mistakesin practice," says Backus.

Third-yearwideout Roy Williams should benefit most from the changes at quarterback andoffensive coordinator. No flop thus far, with 99 catches for 16 touchdowns intwo seasons, he could have a breakout year. The 6'2" Williams says thatMartz's vertical, catch-and-run attack suits him better than Mariucci's WestCoast system. "Too much stop-and-go in the West Coast," says Williams."Big guys are not made for stop-and-go."

Marinelli and newdefensive coordinator Donnie Henderson have installed the Cover 2 schemeMarinelli ran at Tampa Bay. To make it effective, the Lions will need quickdevelopment from rookie linebacker Ernie Sims, continued solid work fromhulking tackle Shaun Rogers and improved secondary play beyond the reliableBly.

Failing any ofthat, the players can draw strength from "pounding the rock,"Marinelli's pet motivational tool brought from Tampa Bay and signified by aboulder that sits in the middle of the locker room to encourage playing onedown at a time. Says Marinelli, "Winning is all about doing thingsright."

2006 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

10 SEATTLE

17 at Chicago

24 GREEN BAY

OCTOBER

1 at St.Louis

8 atMinnesota

15 BUFFALO

22 at N.Y.Jets

29 Bye

NOVEMBER

5 ATLANTA

12 SANFRANCISCO

19 at Arizona

23 MIAMI (T)

DECEMBER

3 at NewEngland

10 MINNESOTA

17 at GreenBay

24 CHICAGO

31 at Dallas

(T) Thursday

SCHEDULESTRENGTH
NFL rank T25
Opponents' 2005 winning percentage .473
Games against playoff teams 4

ENEMY LINES
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT SIZES UP THE LIONS

> At somepoint the situation between Rod Marinelli and Mike Martz is going to get ugly,especially if the Lions start losing. Marinelli will want to do one thing, andMartz will want to take over and throw the crap out of the ball.

> Everybodyin the league loves Roy Williams.

> Theoffensive line is decent, but in Martz's system the line has to be better thandecent because the quarterback needs a lot of time to throw. Left tackle JeffBackus is their best lineman.

> The Lionsare in a bad way with Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. With all the money theyhave tied up in those guys, they're going to have to cut one or both of them,or that situation could be a real cancer on this team.

Jon Kitna is morelike a good backup. But you'd have to say he's an improvement over JoeyHarrington.

BREAKOUTPLAYER
Kalimba Edwards
DEFENSIVE END

A 2002second-round draft choice out of South Carolina, Edwards almost signed with theBrowns in the off-season but instead agreed to a five-year contract extensionwith the Lions. The 6'6", 265-pound Edwards averaged five sacks per seasonin his first four years and had a career-high seven takedowns in '05, butteammates expect more. "In Coach Marinelli's defense Kalimba is going toget a chance to run straight up the field and get the quarterback," sayscornerback Dré Bly. "That's going to showcase his talent."

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PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP

WITH 2005STATISTICS

COACH RODMARINELLI (0-0 in NFL), first season with Detroit

OFFENSE

ROY WILLIAMS
POS WR
REC 45
YARDS 687
TD 8

KEVIN JONES
POS RB
RUSH 186
YARDS 664
TD 5

JON KITNA (NewAcquisition)
POS QB
ATT 29
COMP 17
PCT 58.6
YARDS 99
TD 0
INT 2
RATING 58.6

CORYSCHLESINGER
POS FB
REC 8
YARDS 31
TD 1

COREY BRADFORD(New Acquisition)
POS WR
REC 34
YARDS 436
TD 5

JASON HANSON
POS K
FG 19-24
POINTS 84

MARCUS POLLARD
POS TE
REC 46
YARDS 516
TD 3

JEFF BACKUS
POS LT
HT 6'5"
WT 305
G 16

ROSS VERBA (NewAcquisition)
POS LG
HT 6'4"
WT 305
G 0

DOMINIC RAIOLA
POS C
HT 6'1"
WT 295
G 16

DAMIEN WOODY
POS RG
HT 6'3"
WT 325
G 16

REX TUCKER
POS RT
HT 6' 5"
WT 315
G 8

DEFENSE

ERNIE SIMS (R)(New Acquisition)
POS WLB
TACKLES 72
SACKS 2 1/2
INT 2

CORY REDDING
POS LE
TACKLES 31
SACKS 1

SHAUN CODY
POS LT
TACKLES 27
SACKS 1 1/2

SHAUN ROGERS
POS RT
TACKLES 39
SACKS 5 1/2

JAMES HALL
POS RE
TACKLES 59
SACKS 5

PARIS LENON (NewAcquisition)
POS SLB
TACKLES 65 
SACKS 1 1/2
INT 0

NICK HARRIS
POS P
PUNTS 84
AVG 43.5

DRE BLY
POS CB
TACKLES 42
INT 6

KENOY KENNEDY
POS SS
TACKLES 98
SACKS 0
INT 2

BOSS BAILEY
POS MLB
TACKLES 59
SACKS 1
INT 1

DANIEL BULLOCKS(R) (New Acquisition)
POS FS
TACKLES 83
SACKS 0
INT 1

FERNANDOBRYANT
POS CB
TACKLES 8
INT 0

(R) Rookie (college statistics)

2005 RECORD5-11
NFL RANK (RUSH/PASS/TOTAL) OFFENSE 26/26/27 DEFENSE 24/13/20

PHOTOGREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGESKITNA PHOTOJOHN BIEVERBYE-BYE The changes will be most apparent on offense, where Roy Williams welcomes Martz's vertical attack. PHOTOCARLOS OSORIO/AP TWO PHOTOS PHOTOHELMET PHOTO BY DAVID N. BERKWITZ

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)