Stillers vs. Lions Pre-season:
With N�Synch unavailable, the Stadium Authority is forced to feature the Stillers vs. Lions encounter this Saturday.� The Lions come in 1-1 in the pre-season, having lost to the Bengals 27-24 but beaten the Colts 27-26.
Detroit led Cincinnati into the 3rd quarter but went down when Scott Mitchell led the Kittens on (3) late scoring drives.� Against Indy, the Lion D-side was toasted by Peyton Manning, falling back 14-0 in just (2) possessions.� After Manning sat down, Detroit scored (17) unanswered points to take a 17-14 lead at the half.�
In sum, the Lion starters have played effectively but have not dominated; the work of the Stiller starters, so far, is well known.� This week, I expect those starters will play 2 � quarters or so.� They figure to see only light duty in the pre-season finale against the Bills; that game is just (5) days after this one.� That being so, the Lions tilt is the last non-counter where the staff can hope to establish some positive to carry into Jacksonville, Sept. 9.� To that end, here are some things worth considering:
When the Stillers have the ball:
Against the Vikings, the Stillers rarely attempted a pass downfield; when they did, the results were not good.� Consider: the following; when you do, consider that Saint QB Aaron Brooks was 10/10/129 against the same Viking D-aggregate.
Kordell threw (9) times completing (6) but averaging less than 6 yards per attempt. The only toss that went 10 yards beyond the LOS hit OLB Ed McDaniel in stride.�
Tee hit Chris Taylor deep but Taylor dropped the ball; Tee hit Toy deep but Edwards tipped the ball to a Viking DB.
Maddox threw a deep out to Brown; Brown went in.� Maddox suffered a meaningless INT on the game�s last play.
Not good: (5) longish throws, (0) completions, (3) INT.� There is little doubt that the Stillers can run the ball effectively.� Bettis and Amoz have looked good; Fu less so, but presuming he stays healthy Fu can pack it.� It is entirely clear that the team�s strength is rushing; from �98 to �00, the Stillers have had some success running despite a truly awful passing attack.� It is equally clear that this ceaseless grinding has been insufficient; from �98 to �00, the team has gone 22-26.� Pre-season is for working on weakness, since few professional teams possess passing games weaker than the Stillers, the home team needs to air it out Saturday.� Or try anyway.
Marvel Smith vs. LDE Robert Porcher:� Porcher is still an elite DE; Marvel came on at the end of the 2000 season but seems to have regressed badly since.� The Stillers have few options at this position; Tharpe doesn�t have the conditioning for the long haul; Ross is unproven and Nkwenti can�t possible be ready.� Porcher will be a test; hopefully, Marvel can make the nut.� The rest of the O-line has functioned fairly effectively though Luther Elliss is probably the top DT that the Stillers will face, to date.� Elliss may test Faneca and Hartings and, no doubt, would absolutely blow up Mylinski.� Finally, the reserve OT will get a test from back-up RDE James Hall who had (4) sacks against the Bengals and from the well traveled, yet gifted, Alonzo Spellman.
Spike vs. RCB Terry Fair:� Fair is a nice player but Fair is only 5�-9�.� The Stillers drafted Burress because he can create mismatches against gifted but undersized CB like Fair.� It is time; it is past time for Spike to produce.� Bryant Westbrook is out; the aging Todd Lyght will start at LCB.� Lyght was a Pro Bowl player once but has slowed.� This man was brought in as a nickel back but, with Westbrook�s injury, is forced to serve as a starter.� In sum, this is a secondary that is open for abuse on the corners though, truly, few teams have shown less capacity here than the Stillers.
Stewart vs. FS Kurt Schultz: Schultz was never fast and now he is 32.� Maybe he�s gotten slower but he hasn�t gotten dumb.� In Buffalo, Schultz was a good hitter and a better spy.� Kurt can get a read on deceptive QB; Stewart is not one of those but still must account for Schultz on any deep ball.
Witman/Cushing vs. MLB Stephen Boyd: �Kreider isn�t ready; when the Bus packs it, Pro Bowler Boyd may more than test Cushing at FB/H-back.
Word is that Kent Graham will see time in the second half.� This is highly aggravating; IMO, Tee has shown that he can be a functional #2.� Martin plays better than he practices; possibly, he would develop with more PT.� Tommy Maddox showed something in Atlanta but snatched that away last weekend.� No matter, if Tee is #2, then Graham or Maddox will be #3.� Maybe Maddox is inadequate but, for me, the verdict is already in on Graham.� He is a decent pocket passer but nothing special who appears to lack any survival instinct in the pocket.� The Stillers would struggle with Graham or Martin under center, but with Tee there is some hope for improvement; with Graham, not a glimmer.� It is absolutely clear that the Stillers have higher and better use of the Kent-cash; cut Graham and pay Holmes, the Stillers need their new D-side leader more than any of their backup QB.��
When the Lions have the ball:
The Lions have installed a West Coast offense; generally, this features quick routes to the WR and does get the other eligible positions involved in the passing game.� The Stillers have struggled to cover RB, FB and TE; the soft zone favored here will give the WR plenty of room to work underneath.� In sum, Detroit�s new scheme seems to be just the kind of system against which the Stillers struggle.� IMO, those problems derive from the fact that, when the OLB drop off, so does the pass rush.� On the plus side, with Kendrell Bell on the 1st unit, the Stillers are approaching an ideal 3-4 state.� Any defense requires (4) legit rushers; the 3-4 emphases LB and this strongly suggests that � premium rushers will play that position.� Bell is a rush threat as Jones is not; Bell�s insertion gives the Stillers (4) strong, or semi-strong, pass rushers including the twin OLB and A. Smith.� That�s all good.�
While the WC is considered a pass-happy attack, SF used it to top the league in rushing for much of the early 90�s.� James Stewart is no Watters but it is worth noting that, last season, the Lions OL did beat down Tampa Bay�s vaunted front.� This is a huge, though inexperienced, OL group and, when the Lions spread the field, few nickel packs match up.
Backus and Gibson vs. Porter and Gildon:� The Lions start their last (3) 1st round draft picks on the OL. Rookie Jeff Backus is the LOT; Aaron Gibson is listed at ROT and Stockar McDougle at LOG.� The other starters are OC Eric Beverly and ROG Brenden Stai.� Gibson and McDougle are immense, Backus less so, but very tough.� If either Gibson or McDougle lock on, they should win; if the Stiller DL plays man-up, strength on strength (as in Atlanta) it could be an ugly day in Heinz-World.� Gildon�s famed outside loop will be a marathon against Gibson and, given the quick strike nature of the WC scheme, entirely futile.
Those behemoth Lions are both awkward and inexperienced; I�d like to see Coach Lewis loosen his grip a bit and bring a regular season stunt/blitz pack Saturday.� If this game is going to be about it for the starters in pre-season, let them play.���
Clancy/Hampton vs. McDougle, Beverly and Stai:� McDougle has the beef, Stai and Beverley are both veterans; we�ll see whether the Stiller NT odd couple can hold the point.
Germane Crowell vs. Chad Scott:� IMO, Scott competed well against Moss and Crowell is in the same mold.
DeShea Townsend vs. Johnnie Mortan:� Mortan was the 2nd WR taken in �94, just after CJ.� Mortan has similar skills; he is a decent but not exceptional starter.� Townsend will make his first start; we�ll get some sense whether this man can play in the base or if his potential tops out at nickel back.
Mike Logan vs. Herman Moore:� With Washington out, Townsend moves up and, I guess, Logan will be the nickel back.� I like this player but he has got to finish.� So far, Mike has come close on (3) big plays but come up empty each time.
TE David Sloan (and pass catcher Pete Mitchell) vs. who knows?� Last week, it was never clear who had Bryan Chamberlain; Sloan is a more accomplished TE.�
The Lions have (2) hometown QB on their roster, Charlie Batch and Mike McMahon.� When healthy, Batch has been an effective leader.� McMahon has directed a couple scoring drives so far.� Probably, the B&G QB will get more crowd support Saturday but this may be a close call.
Larry Foster:� This Lion WR had an 80 PR and 101 KO return against the Bengals.� Kris Brown has been getting it to the EZ with regularity; that�s good but probably, Foster will be coming out anyway.