The past five seasons, Detroit has blocked 13 kicks, second most in the NFL. Of those, 10 were blocked field goals, most in the NFL. Shaun Rogers has seven blocked field goals and one blocked PAT. His eight are the most in the league over the last 10 seasons although Rogers has played only five.
Knocking it dead
Punter Nick Harris dropped 34 kicks inside the 20-yard line in 2005, most in the NFL. Fourteen of those were downed inside the 10 and nine were inside the 5 — also league bests. Only two of Harris’ punts traveled into the end zone for touchbacks.
Pickin’ and grinnin’
Despite missing four games with a wrist injury and playing the final five games with a cast, cornerback Dré Bly tied for fourth in the NFC with six interceptions. Only three players in the NFL have intercepted more than Bly’s 30 since 1999.
The Lions have been the best team in the NFL at hanging onto the football. Lions running backs have lost a league-low three fumbles since 2003 and five since 2002.
Detroit managed 28 touchdowns last season — the same total as Seattle’ Shaun Alexander. However, only 25 of the Lions’ scores came on offense, the only side of the ball that Alexander plays.
Scoring early and often
In his first two seasons in the league, Roy Williams already has 16 touchdown catches – the most by a Lion in a two-year span since All-Pro Herman Moore caught 17 in 1996-97.
To order your 2006 Athlon Sports annual and receive $1 off plus free shipping courtesy of SI.com, click here.
It's been 10 U.S. presidents and 15 head coaches since the Detroit Lions last captured the NFL Championship. Super Bowls weren't even played then. Man did walk on two legs but had yet to walk on the moon. The Berlin Wall had not gone up, much less come down. Twelve cities boasted NFL franchises, two west of the Mississippi River. The year was 1957 and Elvis was king.
Since then, the Lions have won one playoff game, and generations of loyal fans are sick and tired of the promises, of getting hopes up, then having them splattered. They rebelled last season, staging an Angry Fan March outside Ford Field for the final home game. So many wore the colors of the opposing Bengals that day that Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers observed, "It looked like about 60 or 70 percent of the stands were filled with orange and black."
And so, it is no surprise that, in an offseason when 10 new head coaches were hired in the NFL, Rod Marinelli's greeting in Detroit was among the more lackluster.
If anyone ever builds a winner in Detroit, fans will blow the roof off the Ford Field big top. Until then, they want to see some proof.
When Joey Harrington finally decided he wanted out of Detroit, the Lions had just enough time to snap up veteran Jon Kitna and potential comer Josh McCown.
Whoever ultimately gets the starting nod will be the one who satisfies offensive guru Mike Martz's ultra-specific demands for pinpoint passing and command of the overall offense. Neither was penciled in as a starter with his previous team, and both consider the Lions a golden opportunity.
Kitna threw all of 29 passes last season in Cincinnati and has not tossed a touchdown since 2004. McCown was replaced as the starter in Arizona three times during the last two seasons. Kitna's career touchdown-to-interception ratio (108-to-104) is not inspiring, but he does have 79 career starts in Seattle and Cincinnati. McCown, at 27 is seven years younger than Kitna, and he is more athletic and more inclined to throw on the run and tuck the ball and run. It'll be up to Martz to determine which one is most suited for his offense.
Of tailback Kevin Jones, Martz enthused, "He's just scratching the surface … When you want a guy who can carry the mail, so to speak, and do that 35 times a game, he can do that. Or he can turn around the next week and carry it five times and catch 10 passes. He has that type of versatility; we just have to shore it up a little bit."
In perhaps his boldest personnel move, Martz entered training camp looking at Shawn Bryson as a fulltime fullback. Bryson was the team's third down tailback last season but is good at picking up blitzes. He would not be the lead blocker in short-yardage situations, but Martz is not opposed to using an extra tight end at fullback in those situations.
Besides the three No. 1 draft choices of recent seasons - Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams - the Lions added deep threat Corey Bradford in free agency. Marcus Pollard is back at tight end, and free agent Dan Campbell is a fierce blocking tight end.
But for the offense to be explosive, the young guns must blossom. Of Martz, who orchestrated "The Greatest Show on Turf" in St. Louis, Roy Williams says, "He's got a proven offense that gets people to the playoffs, gets people to the Super Bowl. If anybody has the personnel to fit the deal, I think it's us. He's stressed that to us, that this could be the best offense that he's ever been around."
The mainstays are right guard Damien Woody, a former Pro Bowler with two Super Bowl rings from New England; center Dominic Raiola, smallish at 295 but very athletic and smart; and left tackle Jeff Backus, who was franchised at almost $7 million to keep him from bolting as a free agent. Left guard Rick DeMulling lost his starting spot last season to Kyle Kosier, who performed well enough in 11 starts to be lured to Dallas for a nice chunk of change. DeMulling will have to hold off Rex Tucker and perhaps rookie Fred Matua of USC.
Kelly Butler, last season's starting right tackle, may have to beat out rookie Jonathan Scott, a four-year starter at Texas drafted in the fifth round. Courtney Van Buren and the return of guard/center Brock Gutierrez help make this the deepest offensive line the Lions have had in years.
Two-time Pro Bowl tackle Shaun Rogers, still only 27, anchors not only the line but the entire defense. As of mid-May, the Lions were still hoping to talk fellow tackle Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson out of retiring. Wilkinson and Rogers have anchored the Lions defense together for three seasons. Otherwise, second-year player Shaun Cody is expected to step in. Veterans Marcus Bell and Tyoka Jackson also fit into the tackle rotation.
James Hall and Cory Redding started at end last season, with re-signed Kalimba Edwards replacing Redding as a pass rusher. Veteran Jared DeVries has a high motor at end.
After drafting bone-crusher Ernie Sims of Florida State with the ninth overall pick, the Lions could field one of the fastest trios of linebackers in the NFL. The weak-side linebacker, where Sims will play, is one of the featured positions in the Tampa Two defense Marinelli and defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson are installing. Marinelli showed film of Tampa Bay backer Derrick Brooks when Sims made a pre-draft visit to Detroit.
Teddy Lehman, who will take over in the middle for Earl Holmes, and strong-side backer Boss Bailey are both bouncing back from leg injuries. Assuming they are healthy, the Lions have three linebackers who can blanket sideline to sideline. James Davis and Alex Lewis provide solid depth.
By taking Nebraska's Daniel Bullocks in the draft's second round, the Lions took defensive players with their first two selections for the first time since 1993. Bullocks is another hard hitter with great speed and should complement strong safety Kenoy Kennedy and make it easier to disguise which one may creep into the box for run support. Or, Bullocks can handle a slot receiver rather than having to add another cornerback. The presence of another physical safety should also drive Kennedy, who loves contact.
Cornerback Dré Bly is among the league's top defensive playmakers. Starting corner Fernando Bryant broke his collarbone last season and is being counted on to team with Bly. Second-year corner Stanley Wilson and third-year corner Keith Smith are among the nickel back candidates.
Kicker Jason Hanson has been Old Reliable in Detroit since 1992. He's the 17th-leading scorer in NFL history and could easily move into the Top 10 before he retires. Hanson has 10 game-winning field goals from 42 yards and out.
Nick Harris has quietly become one of the league's most adept punters. Of his 34 punts landing inside the 20 last season, nine were downed inside the 5, and he had only two touchbacks in 2005.
Eddie Drummond may have been the NFL's premier kick returner when healthy in 2004. He slipped a little last season when his blockers were not as good as they should be this season.
For someone becoming a head coach for the first time at any level, Marinelli wasted no time surrounding himself with strong-willed assistants. When Martz turned the Lions down after being fired as the head coach in St. Louis, Marinelli never stopped wooing Martz until he got him. Marinelli, for 10 years the defensive line coach in Tampa Bay, needed an offensive maestro. Martz is that. Marinelli also brought in Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson at the same position in Detroit. The only question is how long Martz and Henderson will stay before they get their own head coaching jobs in the NFL. Larry Beightol, Green Bay's offensive line coach the last seven seasons, is another highly regarded addition to the staff.