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From Cubs To Lions: Poised For Breakout Season In The Motor City
James Morisette. 5th September, 2005 - 1:32 am

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At this very moment in the suburbs of the Motor City, a hefty middle-aged factory worker with a battle hardened face ? we will call him Tom ? is rampantly rummaging through the bedroom closet of his frequently renovated, post-World War II cookie cutter home, looking for his most prized possession.

In a few moments, Tom, when he is unable to find what he is looking for, will walk down the short, beige carpeted hallway with white walls laden with family photos, and yell over the oak banister to the woman he has been blissfully married to for the past twenty plus years.

?Honey,? Tom will say in a loud gravely voice, causing his wife to momentarily stop reading about the newest Motown mayoral scandal in the Free Press newspaper.

?Have you seen my Johnnie Morton Lions jersey??

Has a familiar ring doesn?t it?

That is right ladies and gentlemen, football season; the incurable disease many American men love and many American women deplore, has arrived in Detroit.

What does this mean for Lions fans?

Bliss.

?What!? How can you say such a thing Morisette? Have you gone mad? Have you been hiding in a cave in Afghanistan over the past four seasons; years in which the Lions compiled an NFL worst overall team record of 16-48?

Hold on Detroiters. Before you hunt me down, take a second to hear me out. I assure you I did not lose all my marbles in a game of football roulette.

What I did lose however, is my negative attitude towards the Lions organization. And so should you.

Why do I boldly say this?

Because for the first time since the early 1990s, the Detroit Lions will be a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Go ahead; roll your eyes football fans. Laugh heartily if you will. But the following facts are indisputable.

Fact number one: Joey Harrington?s statistics ? despite having anemically talented and consistently injured players on his side of the football ? have improved steadily since taking over as Lions quarterback in 2002.

Yet Lion fans keep negatively bibble babbling and booing Harrington like he is Ryan Leif or Andre Ware. I speculate that fans around this beautiful nation ? to include Detroiters ? will not be yapping and yelling for a replacement when he puts up Pro-Bowl numbers this season.

Fact number 2: Lions President/General Manager Matt Millen has efficiently and intrepidly used both the NFL Draft and the free agent market to surround Harrington with a very talented arsenal of young football players. The offensive side of the ball alone is freakishly big and scary.

During the season, defensive backs and linemen around the league have the distinct displeasure of lining up against Charles Rogers (6-3, 220lbs), Roy Williams (6-3, 215 lbs), Mike Williams (6-4, 233 lbs), and the midget of the group, Kevin Johnson (5-11, 195 lbs). Throw in former Indianapolis Colt Tight End Marcus Pollard, and the Lions have a recipe for what we in the United States Air Force call ?Air Superiority.?

But what about the infantry attack?

Lions have that too in Kevin Jones and company. The second year running back from Virginia Tech, after he struggled early last season because of a nagging ankle injury, had an enormous second half, rushing for 825 yards in his last 7 games. By campaigns end, Jones compiled 1,133 rushing yards on just 241 carries (4.7 yards per carry), along with 28 receptions for 180 yards, and 5 touchdowns. To say that Jones is drooling like a lion right now over the opportunity to run through the open holes that will be created for him by the new spread offense is an understatement. Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner are not bad running backs either, although they are nowhere near Jones?s caliber.

What about the offensive line you ask?

What about them? Yes, the Lions lost 6-6 334 lb Right Tackle Stockar McDougle to the free agency reaper last season. While tragic, it is time to put the situation to rest and move on. Yes the Lions offensive line is young and growing. But, quite contrary to what ?experts? and Lion Armageddonists had to say after watching the St. Louis Rams PRE-SEASON game, they will be solid this season.

Yes I said it. The Lions offensive line will be solid this season. I will start with former University of Michigan standout Jeff Backus to prove my point.

Backus, a 6-5, 306 pound left tackle who has played in 64 consecutive games for the Detroit Lions since being drafted in 2001, knows the offensive playbook better than anyone else on the offensive line besides the man to his right who I will talk about in a second. Backus?s intelligence and endurance came to the forefront last season, when he led the way for a rushing attack by Kevin Jones and company that ranked second in the NFL over the final seven games. Millen and Mariucci expect him to be even better this season.

Lining up next to Backus will be 6-4, 304 lb left guard Rick DeMulling. DeMulling, like Marcus Pollard, came to the Lions from the Indianapolis Colts; a team he started for since being drafted in 2001. During his three years in Indianapolis, DeMulling helped contribute to an offensive line that finished in the top five in sacks allowed three times. DeMulling and company also yielded just 14 sacks last season, which was tied for the lowest in the NFL. But most importantly, DeMulling has good leadership skills and solid playoff experience. This should come in handy for the Lions this season

Next on the list is Lions 6-1, 295 lb anchorman Center Dominic Raiola. Raiola, who was a First Team All American Center for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, has started every single game at Center for the Lions since being drafted in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Sounds strangely familiar to Mr. Backus doesn?t it? The Hawaiian native slash Al Pacino fan is a flat out beast. Although his statistics do not show up in the box score, Raiola is oftentimes seen manhandling his opponents and setting devastating blocks. Scarface would be a good nickname for him.

To the east of the Hawaiian beast is Damien Woody, a 6-3 325 lb Super Bowl ring earning, Pro-Bowl playing, Guard from Boston College University. Enough said.

Finally and most controversially is the 6-7 334 lb youthful Right Tackle Kelly Butler. Butler, who was chosen in the sixth round out of Purdue by the Lions in the 2004 NFL draft, is seen by ?experts? as a mortal who will in no form or fashion will be able to fill the gigantic shoes left by Stockar McDougle. Forget the fact that Butler is a tremendous blocker who according to the Detroit Lions official website ?graded 80 % or better for blocking consistency in each of his final 26 games and was part of a high-powered offense while in college.? Forget the fact that he is an explosive and intelligent player with better than average agility. Forget the fact that he has an outstanding work ethic. Forget it all. McDougle is gone Lions fans. Let it go. Give brethren Butler a chance to prove himself.


What about special teams?

Eddie Drummond, Jason Hanson, Nick Harris and Donte Curry ? four of the best in the NFL at their respective positions. End of story.

What about the Lions, Swiss cheese defense that got embarrassed before the entire nation two Mondays ago by the Rams?

You mean that PRE-SEASON game not one mortal at the ESPN Sports Zone in Baltimore, aside from my fianc?, myself, and a couple of buddies, were watching? The same game that Linebacker Teddy Lehman, Left Tackle Shaun Rogers, and Right End James Hall all sat out with minor injuries? The same game where veteran NFL referee Ed ?Guns? Hochuli made a PRE-SEASON blunder by initially signaling for a hold when in actuality it was a false-start penalty? Yeah it must have been that game.

The bottom line is that the Lions defense will be better than it is being given credit for. You can quote me on that.

Pro-Bowl Left Tackle Shaun Rogers should create enough havoc on his end of the defensive line to draw double teams from the opposition, thus leaving Pro-bowl counterpart Dan Wilkinson alone to damage anything rumbling in his direction. Both the Left and Right Ends Corry Redding and James Hall are very good defenders but are not tremendous pass rushers. To solve this problem, Mr. Millen and company drafted Shaun Cody, a 6-4 293 lb All-American Defensive Tackle from the University of Southern California. The scouting report on Cody, according to the Detroit Lions official website, is as follows: ?[Cody] possesses impressive speed and has impeccable hand usage, which he utilizes to outmaneuver blockers.? Statistically speaking, Cody ?finished his [?] career with 130 tackles (89 solo), 21 sacks (162 yards), 31.5 stops for losses (185 yards), four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, five pass deflections, and five blocked field goals.? In other words, the man is a beast. Once he perfects the art of NFL blocking, Cody will pose big problems for the opposition during future campaigns.

The Lions linebackers, or ?Lionbackers? on the other hand, will pose problems for the opposition during this campaign.

Keep laughing football fans. Laugh until the running back on your favorite team goes on the Injured Reserve list after getting lit up by 6-3 235 lb Outside Linebacker Boss Bailey.

Who the heck is Boss Bailey?

I will tell you who he is.

Wait. Before I do this let me first ask you one question. Have you ever heard of Champ Bailey? You know the All-American cornerback and wide receiver from the University of Georgia? The man who was selected in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins but now plays cornerback for the Denver Broncos? And the man who has made five Pro Bowl appearances? That is right. Champ is Bailey?s older brother. Ok now that you know who Bailey is, I will tell give you a quick briefing about him.

Bailey, who was selected by the Lions early in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Georgia, quickly emerged as one of the most terrifying young linebackers in the NFL during his rookie season (109 tackles in 16 games). But unfortunately during training camp in 04, Bailey suffered a serious knee injury that knocked him out for the entire season. But one year later the Boss is back, and he is ready to devour his offensive opponents. So is veteran linebacker Earl ?Hitman? Holmes, second year standout Teddy Lehman, University of West Virginia speedster James Davis, the always tough and tenacious Donte Curry, and former Wisconsin University standout Alex Lewis.

Ok well what about the secondary? Surely they are going to get chewed up and spit out by opposing quarterbacks this season. Right?

Not exactly.

With their acquisition of hard-hitting, former Denver Bronco Safety Kenoy Kennedy and veteran Chicago Bear free agent Cornerback R.W. McQuarters, the Lions, who already have Pro Bowl cornerback Dre? Bly, Free Safety Torrence Holt (Torry?s little brother), and the always durable Fernando Bryant amongst others, are much improved and much deeper than they were last season.

Suddenly, the grave sound of nationwide chuckling has begun to fade.

The reason is because the Detroit Lions, for the first time since the early 1990?s, have a hungry core of young and talented football players who are determined to prove the ?experts? and Lion Armageddonists wrong by winning their respective division making noise in the playoffs.

By the way Tom?s wife threw his old, torn, pizza and beer stained Johnnie Morton jersey away in the garbage shortly after the Lions lost their final game to the Tennessee Titans last season. For this she is very smart.

She is smart because although she might not be the most knowledgeable football fan, she realized that that jersey created nothing but grim memories of unsuccessful Lion seasons gone by.

Tom?s wife replaced his Johnnie Morton jersey with a Black Lions jersey with Honolulu Blue lettering that says HARRINGTON along with the big number 3 on the back.

Why would she do such a thing?

Because she realizes that Joey Harrington is the future of the Detroit Lions. She realizes that he is not only going to have a breakout season this year, but that he, along with the rest of the young offense, is going to thrill Lion fans for years to come.

With that said, my final question becomes, if a woman with minimal football knowledge can see the light at the end of the tunnel, why can?t everyone else?

It is now time Lion fans, to quit bibble babbling about and booing Joey Harrington and get behind the Detroit Lions in the war for football supremacy. This team is far unlike Lion teams of the past. They have the superb skills. They have the strong will to succeed. They have beautiful Ford Field ? host of this seasons Super Bowl. And with your support, they will emerge victorious in the NFC Northern Divison this season.

The Lions season begins this Sunday at home against the Green Bay Packers shortly after the afternoon clock strikes one. Tom will be sitting on his sofa with his significant other watching the game and enjoying a cold one while proudly wearing his Lions jersey. I hope other Lions fans will be doing the same.