To parrot head coach Rod Marinelli, everything is a process. The process of the offseason is over and training camp opens today at Allen Park. Matt Millen and the franchise have pushed a credo of "Believe in Now," which is what Lion fans have been doing since their last championship in the 1950s. The end result, more often than not, has been disbelief at another campaign without a trip to the Super Bowl.
Yet here we are again, the start of camp at Optimism Central. While much of the attitude landscape has changed, the results really have not. With the "win now" mentality in pro sports, how much more time can we expect Marinelli to have to implement his military style philosophy and imprint his character on the players?
As long as I have been a staunch fan of the Lions, over 30 years, the "now" is about the shot we have unless something happens at the quarterback position. While Jon Kitna is serviceable and has statistical success over the last two seasons due to zero commitment to running the ball in Mad Mike Martz's pass-happy offense, he is not a Super Bowl caliber quarterback. Never has been, never will be.
What lies behind this season is scarier than that. With former Viking, Dolphin, and Raider Daunte Culpepper calling the Lions looking for work, isn't it obvious that the quarterback position is in flux? Kitna is cemented as the starter in '08, but who is the future? Dan Orvlosky? Drew Stanton?
Makes you think that with Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson on the outside and a re-commitment to the run game, I would hold the same opinion on C-Pepp as I would Simms. Why not? Take a shot; he is now three years removed from the knee injury that changed his life, so maybe he's ready to change ours.
The team has their draft picks signed and ready to roll. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, linebacker Jordon Dizon, running back Kevin Smith, and defensive end Cliff Avril are all being counted on to make an impact. "Believing in Now" is going to mean these young cubs roar early, and loudly.
Rumors are still circulating that former Eagle Takeo Spikes is interested in coming aboard and the Lions are eager to sign him, but this talk has been going on for more than a week. He finished second in tackles in Philadelphia last season and would be a good fit to man the middle of Detroit's Tampa Two. Why wait?
Both lines will be the focus of this camp. The offensive line has much to prove as they were not a fit for the Martz offense and claim coming off the ball and playing smash mouth is. The defensive front will make or break this club as gone is man-child Shaun Rogers off to Cleveland and now Cory Redding, owner of one of the richest defensive contracts in the league has to become a Pro Bowler, or real close to it.
Is last season's free agent prize Dewayne White the answer to the ever-present pass rush shortage? Will Ikaika Alama-Francis develop in his second season to help him? Will Redding prove to be worth $49 million? What about former Pac-10 defensive player of the year Shaun Cody? Is playing for a contract all he's good for? Is he a dependable defensive tackle? Why didn't the Lions make a run at Jason Taylor?
Without improvement to the D-front, the improved secondary will still struggle and suffer.
As camp opens, all best case scenarios seem possible and the first preseason games are right around the corner. "Believing in Now" means should the team open 6-2 again this season, they should be able to close it out with a playoff spot, maybe a playoff win.
At least we have football back, huh?
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