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Roaring with discontent

Lions fighting with themselves as offense struggles

Posted: Tuesday October 11, 2005 11:13AM; Updated: Tuesday October 11, 2005 8:56PM
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Wide receiver Roy Williams leads the Lions in receiving with 187 yards in four games.
Wide receiver Roy Williams leads the Lions in receiving with 187 yards in four games.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

From what I understand, the Detroit Lions offense had a hell of a practice last Wednesday. The quarterbacks frequently misfired on their passes. The receivers constantly dropped catchable balls. Frustrated teammates watched in disgust, complaining about the lack of efficiency, demanding others pick up their play. There was so much finger-pointing and bickering, Lions wide receiver Roy Williams couldn't remember a more frustrating day before a game. "It was the worst practice I've ever been a part of," Williams says. "And that goes all the way back to Pee-wee football. We definitely looked like a divided team on that day."

The Lions eventually overcame that ugly afternoon -- they strung together two straight solid practices before beating the Baltimore Ravens, 35-17, last Sunday -- but the futility of that day reveals plenty about the state of affairs in Motown. This is no longer just a team that is trying to fight its way through a disappointing 2-2 start. It's one that is hoping to stay unified under the weight of lofty expectations.

This is especially true for Detroit's offense. It has been a troubling issue in Detroit ever since Barry Sanders left town, but in the past the major concern was an obvious lack of talent. Now it's immaturity that is dogging this team, along with a glaring lack of chemistry. As Williams says, "There's a lot of frustration here. We look good on paper but when we get on the field, it's like we're the Bad News Bears. We jump offsides. We're running the wrong routes -- and that includes me. The worst thing is that we know how good we can be and we just can't get there."

This is no longer merely an issue of quarterback Joey Harrington's ineffectiveness. It is about an offense that was supposed to be dangerous but has regressed in Steve Mariucci's third year as head coach. The Lions' offense is ranked 28th in the NFL, which is crazy for a team with so much talent. Detroit has seven first-round picks playing key roles on offense, but it continues to flounder at the bottom of the league's offensive categories because its skill players can't grow up.