NO MORE ROAR
Barry Sanders is the best running back in the game, period. But he's averaging 3.5 yards a carry (104 rushes for 367 yards), and the Lions are 1-5 because Detroit has no quality guards in the wake of the injury that paralyzed Mike Utley last November and the death of Eric Andolsek in June. As a result of poor play by new starting guards Shawn Bouwens and Ken Dallafior, Detroit's ground game is getting hammered, and quarterback Rodney Peete is running for his life on most pass plays, as he did in a 31-14 loss to the Vikings last Thursday night.
The Lions have abandoned their early-season strategy of using two tight ends to beef up the blocking, but their return to the four-wideout sets of the Silver Stretch run-and-shoot hasn't helped Sanders. As for the theory that new offensive coordinator Dan Henning's switching between the two-tight-end formation and the Silver Stretch has confused the players, Sanders thinks that's a lot of bunk. There's just no room to run. "Formations and alignments have nothing to do with it," says Sanders. "There always has been something more to it. We're getting beat, outmanned."
"What's hurt them," one NFC Central player says, "is not playing the Silver Stretch all season. In the conventional offense you can't do the things Barry does best. In the Silver Stretch the defense has to spread out. It's easier to run in the Silver Stretch because in a conventional offense you're clogging the middle, and Barry needs to be able to run in space."
Last week Detroit dumped backup guard Mike Haight, who previously was a bust as a first-round pick of the Jets in 1986, and activated rookie Larry Tharpe from the injured-reserve list. Throw in journeyman Dennis McKnight, whom the Lions picked up in the preseason, and Detroit has four guards who, as the chart below shows, haven't made a lasting impression with anyone.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
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Will Denver owner Pat Bowlen bring back coach Dan Reeves for a 13th season in 1993, or will he let Reeves walk when his contract expires this year? "I really don't know," says Reeves. "I would like to stay here, but I don't know that Pat knows exactly what he's going to do." Earlier this month Reeves asked Bowlen to clarify his job status, and Bowlen told him he would like to wait until the end of the season to discuss it. That doesn't bode well for Reeves, an autocratic sort who has gotten more out of his talent than any other coach in the NFL in the last decade. If Reeves goes, former Elway mentor Mike Shanahan, now the 49ers' offensive coordinator, will be a prime candidate to replace him....
Quarterback Boomer Esiason, who hasn't played up to his ability in three years, might be reaching the end of the line in Cincinnati. The Bengals, who are paying three quarterbacks a total of about $7 million this year, would be smart to trade him at season's end (to the Saints or Raiders, maybe?) and jump-start their quarterback of the future, 23-year-old David Klingler, who was Cincinnati's first-round pick this year. There's only one thing holding Klingler back, at least for now. "I don't have a clue out there," says Klingler, who missed all of training camp in a holdout....