Greetings, sports fan. At the generous request of our maestro of mayhem, Dan Williams, I’m going to be contributing some random thoughts and mental toaster-waffles to this site so that YOU, our Constant Readers, can either be enlightened, disgusted, or even baffled. Ready? Okay; thanks…I’ll do my best to at least make it entertaining.
Those of you that know me are more than aware that I’m a dedicated Detroit Lions fan. Hell, I’m notable in that I’m still willing to admit it, throughout these many years–I even remember the days of Eric Hipple and Billy Sims–without the Lombardi trophy (something that, not surprisingly, makes me good comrades-in-arms, after a fashion, with Cleveland fans, who more than know THAT pain). So I was getting into a good, friendly, but spirited discussion with one of my coworkers–who’s from Michigan–about the Lions’ passing game/attack. He’s a dedicated Dallas Cowboys fan, so after the requisite walks down memory lane about who was better between Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith, we settled into discussing passing games. The long and short of it: I think that the Lions have one of the best passing attacks in the game right now, and he doesn’t.
Side note: I’m not going to get into a display of metaphorically pissing all over Matt Millen. His name will probably come up, but, tempting as it is, this post isn’t about enacting all of those revenge fantasies that myself and other Detroit fans nurture. Maybe in a later post, though.
Millen’s whole philosophy of trying to build the team for the future has focused on receivers, especially in the draft. The past several years have brought us Mike Williams, Charles Rogers, Calvin Johnson, and Roy Williams. Mike Furrey, previously of the St. Louis Rams, came aboard last season to rejoin Mike Martz, Detroit’s offensive coordinator. Rounding out this cast of thousands is Shaun McDonald. Although Williams and Rogers have moved on to less-greener pastures, the other four still remain…and honestly, they’re working for a quarterback and offensive coordinator who are more than a bit pass-happy.
Several months ago, Millen, when he was explaining why they took Johnson as the pick in the most recent draft (and I wouldn’t have minded Joe Thomas, personally, to shore up the line), said that the underlying philosophy and style of play in the NFL has moved to emphasize the passing game. Prior to the advent of the West Coast Offense, the emphasis was on the running game for the bulk of plays, relying on that to test defenses and open up passing lanes for the receivers. Nowadays, though, it’s the opposite, so–much as I’m surprised to hear myself say it–but Millen was right. Recognizing that trend, and bringing on Martz as the OC (who loves the passing game so much, I’m STILL convinced that he offers nightly sacrifice to some sort of representation of Bill Walsh), means that Detroit would front-load its offensive firepower. Having Jon Kitna as quarterback isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either–he’s a veteran with plenty of experience and strength, knows the playbook, and has four good receivers to throw to. The downside? He throws as many picks as he does TD’s.
Loading up on receivers means, however, that Detroit’s offense has the weapons for good attacks. Williams, while not the tallest receiver, is great for plays-after-the-catch, and is faster than a lot of people give him credit for. Johnson, although still a rookie, has the raw speed, strength, and grip for the style of football that Detroit plays–not to mention that he’s tall enough to swipe low-flying airplanes out of the sky (and likens himself to Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, which leads to an automatic Cool rating in my book. Hell, they actually had a side-by-side stat comparison between the two during a game a few weeks back, which has turned into a treasured NFL memory of mine). Furrey and McDonald, while perhaps not as flashy as Johnson or Williams, are great clutch receivers (good for moving the ball downfield, as opposed to purely Red Zone offense)–and get lots of looks from Kitna because defenses are focusing on the first two. Detroit’s passing offense is ranked fifth, and all four of them are getting attention spread between them. Check this link for the ’07 stats so far–largely because I’m too lazy after a big dinner to rewrite them right now.
Combined with the fact that Kitna’s throwing an average of 266 yards per game, has a 93 percent quarterback rating, and has 1333 yards to date this season (okay, so I lied about the stats. Sue me.) means that Detroit’s passing game is doing SOMETHING right.
Don’t get me wrong, though…Detroit’s running game is questionable (to the point now where Tatum Bell is asking to be traded away). Kevin Jones is coming off that foot injury that ended his season early last year, Aveion Cason just got re-hired after being cut, and T.J. Duckett won’t win any points for grace or fleet-footedness. As one friend of mine put it, he’s the poor man’s Ron Dayne. Mike Martz is probably keeping his ear close to the ground for head coaching positions. And the fact remains that, while our defense isn’t quite as shaky as it was last year, the O-line is still prone to collapsing at all the wrong moments.
But the passing game of Detroit–I say that it’s one of the best out there, and has the potential to keep getting even better.