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Five burning questions (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday May 17, 2006 12:50PM; Updated: Wednesday May 17, 2006 3:46PM
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Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has spent the offseason working out with receivers Michael Jenkins and Roddy White.
Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has spent the offseason working out with receivers Michael Jenkins and Roddy White.
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3. Will Michael Vick be a better passer this season?

The Falcons claim he will, because he's spent more time actually throwing the football. Vick has been working out with receivers Michael Jenkins and Roddy White five days a week this offseason, and that's a major departure from years past.

Vick has spent the bulk of his last two offseasons in the classroom, trying to learn Atlanta's version of the West Coast offense. Now he's more focused on building chemistry with two young receivers who were first-round picks.

Falcons receivers coach George Stewart says he can already see substantial improvement in his players. The 6-foot-5 Jenkins has learned to catch balls away from his body and use his long frame to ward off defenders. The speedy White has honed his route-running and his attention to detail by watching endless tapes of Jerry Rice. If they can continue that growth when the season begins, Vick should be a happier man.

4. Who will the Lions start at quarterback?

If they're smart, they'll go with Jon Kitna over Josh McCown. Kitna was the leading candidate in the eyes of coach Rod Marinelli when both quarterbacks signed in March, and he'll do everything possible to maintain that edge through training camp.

The important thing to remember is that Kitna, a starter in Seattle and Cincinnati, actually has done something in this league, while McCown still has yet to prove himself as a capable, first-string signal-caller.

The second thing to note is that Kitna can have a profound impact on the entire offense. His teammates in Cincinnati say that he was a major factor in the development of Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson.

When Johnson came to the Bengals five years ago, he was an unpolished, inconsistent talent. With some tips from Kitna, Johnson learned some subtleties about reading defenders, running sharper routes and beating press coverage. Don't be surprised if Kitna teaches the Lions' young receivers (Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams) a few tricks as well. I'm sure the Lions are hoping that's the case.

5. What's going to happen to Ashley Lelie?

Lelie's decision to change agents -- he dumped Michael Sullivan on May 1 and hired Denver-based Peter Schaffer -- indicates how adamant he is about forcing his way out of Denver. The problem, however, is that he doesn't have much leverage, regardless of who represents him.

Newly acquired Javon Walker and Rod Smith are the Broncos' projected starters at wide receiver. Lelie, in the final year of the contract he signed as a rookie in 2002, will be the team's third option.

Though there are teams who could use help at receiver (Jacksonville, San Francisco and Kansas City come to mind), I doubt that anybody is going to part with a high draft pick for a player who's never caught more than 54 passes in a season.

Lelie's best move would be to start working out with the team again and hope something gets done with a potential suitor. But it doesn't look like he's going to go that route anytime soon.



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