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
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
"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
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
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
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.