Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Don't Look Now, But NFL's Most Exciting Offense May Be In....(gasp!) Detroit!
(l to r) Jones, Rogers, Roy and Mike Williams: YOU try to defend them
The Lions start training camp next week, and so far Charlie Rogers hasn't reinjured his shoulder. Both of those tidbits should warm the hearts of Lions fans everywhere, not that they need warming in this sweltering heat.
In a flash, it seems, the Lions suddenly possess one of the youngest and potentially most exciting offenses in the entire NFL. No joke. Which team tops them, at the skill positions, when it comes to youth and talent?
Just look at the names and digest them for a moment. Kevin Jones running the ball. Rogers, Mike and Roy Williams catching it. A pretty decent offensive line. A solid tight end in Marcus Pollard. Even Joey Harrington can't screw this up, can he? On second thought, don't answer that question.
But really, this Lions offense is primed for success and could be awfully fun to watch. Until Rogers falls on his shoulder, then all bets are off. I know that's not so funny, because you think in the back of your mind -- or maybe even the middle of your mind -- that Rogers could indeed be hurt again. Why not, when you think about it, which everyone hates to do.But providing Rogers bucks the odds and stays healthy, defenses might have fits with this group.
It all centers around....Kevin Jones. Thought I was gonna say Harrington, didn't you? No, it's Jones. Football 101 says that no matter how potent your passing game, without the threat of the run, you may as well start planning for next year's draft. But with the way Jones ran in last season's second half, opposing defensive coordinators might have some sleepless nights during "Detroit week." And that's why Jones' performance this season is so crucial. When Jones runs the way he did in November and December, the field opens up as if parted by Moses. The Williamses and Rogers will be able to run wild in the flats and secondary, and a play-action move will freeze defensive lines. Just like they draw it up on the chalkboard.
So it's Kevin Jones, not Joey Harrington, that Lions fans should focus on this season. But of course, they won't. Harrington, the quarterback, will be in the fish bowl once again, swimming with the sharks. And I suppose that's only fair, because QB may be the most important position in all of team sports, right up there with a hockey goalie and Juan Gonzalez' x-ray technician. No wonder the majority of the venom in this town, then, gets spewed on Harrington and Curtis Joseph of the Red Wings. But it's nothing personal, guys -- it's the position, not the person. I have a feeling even old #22, Bobby Layne, might have to fend off the loudmouths on talk radio if he were to be reincarnated. Same with Terry Sawchuk if he were to reappear between the pipes for the Red Wings.
But while I admit Joey has something to do with whether Jason Hanson tries mostly field goals or extra points, he will still only be as effective as Kevin Jones' running will allow him to be. In fact, I submit to you that this year, 2005, we will finally get to see what kind of an NFL quarterback Joey Harrington really is. That's because all the pieces are in place for him to be successful. No more excuses. No more Joey apologists whining that there is no running game to set up the pass. This is it, Pal Joey. Let's see what you're made of.
Still, if Jones goes down, heaven forbid, kiss the playoffs goodbye and watch opposing defenses bump our receivers at the line like pinballs off cushions. Watch for nickel defenses and blitzes and whatever else the other guys' defenders can come up with to disrupt Harrington's groove. I'm telling you, Jones was so impressive in the second half of 2004, you thought you were seeing Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith (in his prime) morphed into one running back. He was that good -- fast and powerful and jiggly at times. He electrified the Ford Field patrons.
And it's not just locals like me saying these things. I have noticed more and more national media talking all googly about the jewels the Lions have at the skill positions. The Sporting News, for example, raved about the Lions' offense a few weeks ago. Even the fantasy footballers, those Mel Kiper knock offs, think there is something good happening in Motown as it pertains to the NFL. In fact, the Lions are so stacked at the running back and receiver positions that some FF'ers worry that no one player will have enough outstanding fantasy games, because the wealth may be spread too thin.
Not that the Lions care, of course. Their goal is to win enough games to get into the playoffs and qualify for the franchise's first Super Bowl.
Talk about Fantasy Football.