For the 2003-04 Detroit Lions, the play from the quarterback position may very well dictate how well the season goes. There was only one addition from last year's quarterback depth chart, an unrestricted free agent, but the slate should definetly be improved as the youth evolves into solid players.
Namely, Joey Harrington.
While indeed a learning experience, Harrington's 2002 campaign was -- statistically speaking -- a forgettable one. He threw for a team rookie record of 12 touchdowns, but also had the lowest quarterback rating of all NFL starters, and threw 16 interceptions. His completion rate was at an anemic 50.1%, but should improve under Steve Mariucci's tutelage.
In fact, everything should improve. He now has a clear cut number one target in Charles Rogers. Az-Zahir Hakim will be healthy and return to the slot, which is where he made a name for himself. Bill Schroeder will be healthy as well and should improve upon a nightmarish 2002 season. Tight end Mikhael Ricks should also be healthy. He missed time last year with a groin injury.
With all things taken into consideration, especially new coaching and a year of experience, Joey Harrington should flash more of his unlimited potential.
Harrington's backup will be third year player Mike McMahon. The only quarterback ever drafted from Rutgers, McMahon was once considered to be the next QB in line for Detroit. After Harrington was drafted and inevitably replaced him in 2002, McMahon vowed to return to the field a better quarterback.
In relief of Joey Harrington's sudden heart impairment last year, McMahon did a decent job, including setting career highs with 293 yards and 3 TD's against the Vikings in a close Week 17 loss. McMahon has one thing that Harrington doesn't have: mobility. McMahon can and will run for yards with his speed. However he has had trouble reading defenses and has accuracy troubles due to sloppy mechanics. If he can get his mechanics under control, he will become a more accurate passer and have starting quality skills. Reading defenses will come with more experience.
McMahon won't start for Detroit ever again though, unless it's in relief or result of an injury. McMahon is in a contract year.
Meanwhile, 12-year man Ty Detmer returns as the incumbent clipboard holder, also known as third quarterback. He is infamous for his performance against his former team, the Browns, two years ago. Eight interceptions will do that to you. But his duties as coach and mentor to the other QB's on the roster make him valuable.
At 35, Detmer won't be starting any more games unless something absolutely unforeseen happens. The other quarterbacks look to him for guidance and advice and he gladly gives it to them. He was Mornhinweg's right hand man last year on the sidelines. Expect that to continue this year under Mariucci. This could be Detmer's last year. If that's the case, he might be offered coaching job by Detroit.
Curt Anes was the only addition made to the quarterback slot this year, added as an undrafted free agent from Grand Valley State University. He had gaudy college numbers, with a mind numbing 47 TD's and only 6 INT's. With that includes 3,692 passing yards and a deadly efficient 67.1% completion percentage. Granted, he had teammate David Kircus doing heavy damage and it was against DII competetion, but the numbers cannot be ignored. Detroit probably won't be willing to carry four quarterbacks on the roster, and since the other three men above him are sure things, Anes' likely destiny, for the time being anyway, is the practice squad.
If Detroit can sneak the DII Player of the Year onto the PS, they will be elated. And lucky. Anes is likely to be groomed as the backup to Joey Harrington once Mike McMahon leaves.
As the youthful quarterbacks evolve on the team, the Detroit Lions will become better. More weapons have been added and targets have become healthy. This could very well be the year for Joey Harrington to break out and show the league that he is for real, and that he earned that number 3 overall selection the 2002 draft.