Young Lions Have Potential; Can They Achieve It?

There is one particular word that can define the Detroit Lions' offensive weaponry as the team prepares for the 2004 regular season: potential. Unfortunately, that term neither guarantees the success of the ball club and their new, talented crew, nor does it solidify any team chemistry.

There is one particular word that can define the Detroit Lions' offensive weaponry as the team prepares for the 2004 regular season: potential.

Unfortunately, that term neither guarantees the success of the ball club and their new, talented crew, nor does it solidify any team chemistry. That will be the difficult chore of the Lions' coaching staff this off-season, and the tough road ahead has only just begun.

After the first couple of days of Lions' mini-camp, the potential is apparent with first-round additions Roy Williams at wide receiver along with running back Kevin Jones.

Immediately, Williams has demonstrated his size, speed and use of hands, a combination that made him one of college football's most dangerous receiving threats. The speed and quickness of Jones, meanwhile, has also grabbed alot of attention. The thought of the two sharing the same offense with current notables Charles Rogers and Joey Harrington has fans and media alike salivating.

Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci admitted he recognized the speed his team has garnered, but also pointed out the learning curve the new Lions will have to adjust to.

"They're learning that it is a step and there is going to be a learning curve and growing pains with all of these guys," Mariucci said of the new rookies. "Roy Williams' system at Texas was completely different than the one we're using, in terms of converting routes and formations, it's a different language altogether.

"So he's going to be hopefully a quick study. He's out there catching punts, he's never done that before. He caught everything, but he's never done it before so there's going to be a lot of newness to everything he does."

Williams, along with second-year receiver Rogers, hands the Lions a tandem at the wide receiver position that has the potential to be one of the more threatening in the National Football League.

"We could be dangerous," said Rogers during the mini-camp. "We're both young so we'll be able to grow together and we're going to be around."

Along with the addition of Jones to the backfield, quarterback Joey Harrington seemingly has all of the tools in place to lead a vastly successful offense into the 2004 regular season. That is contingent upon those former All American players attaining their potential, though, or at the least making strides in their rookie seasons.

Although many players, especially on the offensive end, struggle in their rookie season, many are beginning to buck the trend. Last season, Arizona Cardinals' rookie wide receiver Anquan Boldin shocked the league with a rookie record 101 receptions for 1,377 yards, including 8 touchdowns. Boldin, a second round pick, was a Pro Bowl selection.

Former Broncos' rookie running back Clinton Portis, now with Washington, tallied a remarkable 1,508 rushing yards along with 15 touchdowns on just 273 attempts. Portis followed his rookie year with 1,591 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns last season.

Although it's a stretch to ask for similar results from Jones and Williams, or even Rogers in his second-year, each rookie bears a similarity to the aforementioned first-year successes. Williams is a bigger, more physical target like Boldin. Jones, meanwhile, is more of the scat back, utilizing his speed and quickness in the Portis mold.

Mariucci, though, would rather keep it simple for the Lions' rookie class.

"They're not going to be as good early as they are at the middle or towards the end of the season, obviously," said Mariucci. "We want to try to keep it as simple as we possibly can so they can play fast.

"Run the play fast, use their skill and speed and quickness and keeping with that thought, keeping it simple early is going to be important early."

Luckily for Mariucci and staff, the challenge ahead is lined with two of the more exciting players from the 2003 college football season, and their success could shape the Lions into an NFL team to be reckoned with.

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