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Published: Friday, 7/27/2007

Lions opening it up on offense

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Detroit Lions running back Aveion Cason runs agility drills during the first day of camp in Allen Park, Mich. Detroit Lions running back Aveion Cason runs agility drills during the first day of camp in Allen Park, Mich.
CARLOS OSORIO / AP Enlarge

ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Frankly, the Detroit Lions offense during the post-Barry Sanders era has been for the most part, well, offensive.

Meaning it was unpleasant to the eye; not eye-popping entertaining.

But days of offensive ineptitude could clearly be a thing of the past heading into the 2007-08 season for the Lions.

"We're always tweaking things, but familiarity is going to help us," said Lions quarterback Jon Kitna, after the Lions completed the first of two practices scheduled yesterday to officially kick off the 2007-08 season.

The Lions showed signs last season in Mike Martz's wide-open offensive system of breaking away from a recent routine of struggling to establish any kind of offense.

They scored 30 or more points in three games a year ago, which was triple the amount of times they did that a year earlier. They scored 20 or more nine times in 2006, which more than doubled their total of 20 or more points in a game in 2005.

Not only is Kitna back for a second season working in the offense, his two primary targets from a year ago, Roy Williams (82 receptions) and Mike Furrey (98 receptions) have a year of working together in a system that thrived in St. Louis under Martz's direction.

Williams and Furrey combined for 180 receptions last season to top the league among starting wide receiver tandems.

They don't figure to combine for as many catches this season with the addition of highly regarded wideout Calvin Johnson, who was taken with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Yet, Johnson's arrival figures to make the Lions attack even more lethal.

"We're a team that's working and trying to get everybody together," Kitna said.

Kitna threw for 4,208 yards last season, which was the second- most yards thrown for in Lions history. However, a 3-13 record negates the impressive passing statistics.

Kitna said they enter training camp this year differently from a year ago. There's more harmony among the players than a year ago when it seemed everyone was fighting for a spot on the roster under the Lions' first-year head coach.

"I think the team understands the goal - to get better, as opposed to beating each other up," he said.

"We understand the big picture now."

Extra help for the Lions offense is expected to come from the latest additions to the backfield, veteran running backs Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett. Both were on the field taking part in running back drills while last year's starter Kevin Jones (foot), who is on the physically unable to perform list, stretched, lifted weights and rode a stationary bicycle on the sidelines during the morning session.

Bell, a former starter in Denver, and Duckett, a former starter in Atlanta, are expected to give the Lions depth and versatility in the backfield.

"I'm happy to be here with my new teammates and I think we have something special," Bell said.

Kitna welcomes the new additions to the Lions backfield. He thinks Bell, who came to Detroit in a trade with Denver, is capable of providing a big-play element to the running game.

"He's a powerful runner," Kitna said, of Bell. "He's somebody that can go the distance every time he touches the ball. He's a great addition to our offense.

"Hopefully Kevin [Jones] will come back healthy and we'll have a stable back there."

Detroit also figures to be

stronger at the line of scrimmage with the additions of tackle George Foster, 6-5, 338, and guard Edwin Mulitalo, 6-3, 345. Foster comes over from Denver and Mulitalo from Baltimore.

The Lions moved about on the field with a purpose, showing plenty of energy. The offense appeared to be leading the way.

Head coach Rod Marinelli thinks a year in his system has helped the situation.

"Once you know what you're doing that builds confidence," Marinelli said.

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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