2004 Game Recaps and Commentary

 

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SEP. 12: Detroit (20) at Chicago (16)

SEP. 19: Houston (16) at Detroit (28)

SEP. 26: Philadelphia (30) at Detroit (13)

OCT. 10: Detroit (17) at Atlanta (10)

OCT. 17: Green Bay (38) at Detroit (10)

OCT. 24: Detroit (28) at NY Giants (13)

OCT. 31: Detroit (21) at Dallas (31)

NOV. 7: Washington (17) at Detroit (10)

NOV. 14: Detroit (17) at Jacksonville (23)

NOV. 21: Detroit (19) at Minnesota (22)

NOV. 25: Indianapolis (41) at Detroit (09)

DEC. 5: Arizona (12) at Detroit (26)

DEC. 12: Detroit (13) at Green Bay (16)

DEC. 19: Minnesota (28) at Detroit (27)

DEC. 26: Chicago (13) at Detroit (19)

Jan. 2: Detroit (19) at Tennessee (24)

2004 Season Prediction

The Lions head into the regular season with what should be the most improve offense in the league if everyone lives up to their potential. But, the jury is still out on Joey Harrington as this will be his year to show everyone if he's the real deal or another QB mistake for the honolulu blue and silver. As I have always said, the Lions should of passed on Harrington and taken Saftey Quinten Jammer when they had the chance. Rookie RB Kevin Jones showed some glimpses of being a great RB down the road and is in my opinion the rookie that could make the biggest impact. Rookie RB Roy Williams had a mediocre training camp, but most rookie WR's don't start off great. I'm very excited to see what Charles Rogers can do if he can stay healthy. Unlike last year, the offense will need to carry the Lions if they want to play .500 football. The defense is in the worst shape coming into the season that I can remember in a long time. The bottom line is the Lions are in dire need for some good linebackers. With all the injuries mounting on the defense, it is scary to imagine the Defense holding their ground against the better teams in the NFL.

Given the injuries on the defense and the lack of experience with the offense, I can't see the Lions breaking the .500 plateau this year; however, if the injury bug doesn't act up and with a few breaks, the Lions could reach that feat.

Scott's 2004 Prediction: 7-9

2004 NFL Draft

The Detroit Lions usually need help, and rarely receive it.

Not so on this first day of the NFL draft. Help arrived like the way doom often does on game day -- in waves.

The Eli Manning soap opera that set up a trade early Saturday between the San Diego Chargers and the New York Giants helped keep Roy Williams of Texas on the board.

The way other teams picked in the top five helped, too.

The fact that many teams were talking with the Lions about trading their pick for a shot at Williams or Kellen Winslow of Miami didn't hurt.

The Cleveland Browns brain trust, picking at No. 7 behind Detroit's No. 6, for some reason felt it had to make a move or watch Winslow go to Detroit, or elsewhere if a trade happened just ahead of them.

They really wanted Winslow, so they sought help from Detroit.

Coach Butch Davis recruited Winslow to Miami, and he wanted to bring the big, talented tight end to Cleveland. He offered a second-round pick if the Lions would swap spots.

Detroit, truth be told, would have taken Winslow if Williams was off the board. But Williams was still on the board.

Cleveland, of course, didn't know that. Cleveland only knew Detroit had other suitors. The Browns offered the extra pick. The Lions gave them No. 6 and their Winslow shot, and then picked Williams at No. 7.

It was win-win situation for Detroit, especially when later in the first round the Lions helped themselves to more talent. They swapped one of their two second-round picks, along with a fourth-round pick this year and a fifth-round pick next year, to Kansas City for pick No. 30.

With that pick they selected the No. 1 running back on their draft board, Kevin Jones of Virginia Tech.

It gave them two first-round picks, two likely future starters and two strong offensive weapons to help quarterback Joey Harrington.

"We're pumped," general manager Matt Millen said.

"It turned out very well," head coach Steve Mariucci said.

They were being honest. It wasn't contrived happy like when Marty Mornhinweg and Millen were forced by ownership to draft Harrington first a few years back.

The Lions were honestly happy, lucky and looking smart for having tagged two first-round talents. Yes, we're talking about the Lions.

"A lot of things happening in this draft," Mariucci said. "We were talking about how crazy this draft season has been."

The Lions look crazy like a fox. Their top six players in the draft were Manning, Robert Gallery, Larry Fitzgerald, Winslow, Williams and Sean Taylor.

Manning, Gallery, Fitzgerald and Taylor were gone when it came to the Lions at No. 6.

Philip Rivers in the San Diego-New York trade was simply a wild card that came up aces for the Lions, too.

The Lions were then able to choose between two of the draft's top players, which meant for once they almost couldn't lose. Enter Cleveland.

Sure, it's the second straight year they have taken a wide receiver with their first pick. And yes, it works. Ever noticed every team plays with two or more wide receivers? Ever noticed the NFL is a passing league? Ever noticed the West Coast offense run correctly uses the pass to set up the run?

Ever watch the Lions?

Dropped passes led to more dropped passes, which led to even more dropped passes a year ago, and it was clear even a healthy Charles Rogers was not going to be enough.

Oh, and they had average running backs at best. Jones looks better than average, he looks like he might be special.

Harrington, the harried young quarterback, is happy.

"We had to get more help for Joey," Mariucci said. "We're really pleased it came together like this."

Imagine, the Lions getting lucky, catching a break, catching anything.

What do you know? Maybe next, it starts to happen some on game days.

News: 3/6/04

The phone started ringing in Steve Mariucci's office almost before the ink was dry on the two new Lions' contracts.

Cornerback Dre' Bly, between visits to the Allen Park practice facility, wanted an update on guard Damien Woody and cornerback Fernando Bryant, who joined the team Friday.

Quarterback Joey Harrington called to find out if the Lions had signed either or both of them.

Wide receivers Scotty Anderson and David Kircus dropped in to get a look at their new teammates, who were introduced at a news conference.

"It's contagious because there's some excitement," Mariucci said. "Because the team just got better.

"That's why we lift weights, that's why we practice -- to get a little better. Well, we just got better by signing these guys."

ENCOURAGING SIGNS
DAMIEN WOODY

Position: Center/guard.

Height/weight: 6-feet-3, 320 pounds.

Age: 26.

Drafted: First round (17th overall) in 1999 out of Boston College.

Contract with Lions: Six years for close to $30 million, including $9.5 million in signing and roster bonuses.

Overview: Patriots' starting center for four years, moving to guard last season. Missed the AFC championship game and the Super Bowl after suffering a knee injury in a playoff game against Tennessee. Has missed just two regular-season games in his five-season career. Became a free agent after turning down six-year, $22-million offer from New England.


FERNANDO BRYANT

Position: Height/weight: 5-feet-10, 180 pounds.

Age: 26.

Drafted: First round (26th overall) in 1999 out of Alabama.

Contract with Lions: Six years for $24 million, including a $7.25-million signing bonus.

Overview: Five-year starter, including rookie season when he made all-rookie team. Started last 40 games in college and has a current streak of 32 straight in the NFL.

The Lions think Woody and Bryant will help continue the improvement the team began last year with the signing of Bly, who developed into a Pro Bowl player.

Woody, 26, already has been to one Pro Bowl, in 2002, and gives the Lions a dominating interior lineman. He agreed to a six-year contract worth close to $30 million, including $9.5 million in signing and roster bonuses.

Bryant, who turns 27 on March 26, has the speed and skill to play man-to-man coverage. He signed a six-year contract worth $24 million, including a $7.25-million signing bonus.

Woody played most of his first five seasons as a center at New England, but he has experience at guard and likely will line up at left guard -- between tackle Jeff Backus and center Dominic Raiola.

Bryant is expected to start across from Bly at left cornerback, where he started during his five seasons at Jacksonville. Third-year veterans Chris Cash and Andre' Goodman are expected to compete for the nickel and dime back positions.

As they did a year ago, the Lions moved quickly in the free-agent signing period to get the players they wanted.

They brought in Woody, cornerback Ahmed Plummer of San Francisco and wide receiver Darrell Jackson of Seattle on the first day. Bryant rearranged his schedule to visit the Lions on the second day.

Plummer and Jackson moved on to other cities, but Woody and Bryant stayed and signed contracts less than 72 hours into the signing period.

"Not only do they fill holes that were up on the board, but they also are strong people with strong character," team president Matt Millen said. "They're good family people, they're great in the locker room. And on top of that, they're very talented."

As they did with Bly a year ago, the Lions literally didn't let Woody and Bryant get out of town until they were signed.

In the case of Woody, that meant a hijacking -- as he laughingly referred to it later -- on his way to the airport via the limousine hired by the Lions.

"Actually, I was supposed to leave about noon (Thursday)," Woody said. "But somehow we just got lost. I think Mr. Ford might have instructed him, 'Just wander off somewhere.'

"But -- you know what? -- it was great. I had a great time. They really showed me a lot of hospitality here and really made me feel welcome."

Woody's wife, Nicole, was with him and gave his decision the stamp of approval after inquiring about schools and the area in which they will live. They have three daughters, with a fourth child expected this summer.

Bryant, Bly and Woody all came into the NFL in the draft class of 1999. Bly was a second-round pick (41st overall). Woody and Bryant were first-round picks -- Woody 17th overall, Bryant 26th.

They were somewhat familiar with each other before they were thrown together this week. The Class of '99 seems to give them a common bond, Bryant noted.

"I'm sure you're going to hear us -- in time to come -- talk about the Class of '99," he said. "Dre' came in in '99, I came in in '99, Damien did. And it means something to you when you play with people that you know."

The three new teammates also have similar personalities. They are outgoing and have an infectious, upbeat approach to the game that Mariucci thinks is a good influence in the locker room.

Bryant also seems to share Bly's playing approach in the secondary.

"I'm aggressive," he said. "I'm not going to say I take chances; I study my opponent and try to give my team the best opportunity to win. I don't care how long I have to stay over here to try to get it done."

With two major signings completed, Lions executive vice president Tom Lewand said the Lions aren't yet out of the free-agent market. They still have enough salary-cap flexibility to add a wide receiver, another guard and keep some of their own free agents, but the price will have to be right.

"These players -- a guard and corner -- were a high priority for us," Mariucci said. "Next week we'll move into other positions and levels of contracts that we'll consider. We very well may consider Tai Streets in some way because he knows our offense, he knows me and I know him. We'll see how that goes."

My Commentary: 4/25/04

Words cannot describe how well the Lions did in the 2004 NFL Draft! For all the criticism Matt Millen has taken the past three years as GM, he threw that all out the window in one day. If you were to tell me a few days ago the Lions would land Roy Williams and Kevin Jones in the 1st round, I would have said dream on! The Lions did just that, thanks to the help of the Cleveland Browns. I was at Ford Field for the draft festivities. When the Washington Redskins drafted Sean Taylor, everyone was overly excited. The radio announcer for the Lions flagship station immediately said the Lions are next on the clock and they will be drafting Kellen Winslow. What an idiot! When the trade was announced with Cleveland and the Browns took Winslow everyone was in a state of shock. All I kept thinking was what did the Lions get in return for the swap? When the Lions drafted Williams, the people at Ford Field were no where near as excited as with the anticipation of getting Winslow. But soon as it was announced the Lions got a 2nd round pick for the swap that changed everything. For all the draft debacles in the past (not one Lions player is still with the team from the 1996~1999 drafts), the Lions put themselves in a great position to make even more trades. With the extra 2nd round pick from Cleveland, the Lions traded their own 2nd round, 4th round and a 2005 5th round to move up a few slots and grab Kevin Jones.

Within a few hours, the Lions went from one of the worst offenses in the NFL to one that could be the best a few years down the road. Millen and Mariucci made is no secret they wanted the Lions to be faster. Williams and Jones are two of the fastest players at their position. And not to be outdone, the Lions landed the 2004 Dick Butkas award winner Teddy Lehman. Three instant starts! Although Winslow has been billed as the next Jeremy Shockey, the Lions definitely made the right move by taking Roy Williams. The funny twist to drafting Williams is the Lions may have taken over Charles Rodgers had Williams come out last year. Williams decided to go back to Texas for a final year since he thought Rogers was better.

Now the Lions have two of the most promising and fastest WRs in the NFL (assuming Rogers can come back from his broken collar bone injury). The addition of RB Kevin Jones finally gives the Lions a running back with speed that can make a difference. Sorry, but the current group of RBs was not going to get it done. Artose Pinner, Shawn Bryson and Olandis Gary are not what you build your team around. All in all, this was by far the best draft I can ever remember the Lions having. I just hope that Williams and Jones live up to their billing. If they do the sky is the Limit to how good the honolulu blue and silver will be!

2004 Offseason Moves: B+
2004 Draft Picks: A+

My Commentary 3/6/04:
The Lions did not waste any time grabbing the free agents the coveted the most, as was the case last year when the signed Dry Bly. They landed the best center / guard available this year in Damien Woody and cornerback Fernando Bryant. Although they may of overpaid for Woody, he will definitely help the offensive line, which has been improving the past few years. Fernando Bryant will start along with Dre Bly. Although both are on the small side for NFL cornerbacks, their speed and big playmaking abilities should give the Lions a solid secondary.

With some cap room left, I would expect the Lions to take a wide receiver or try to resign James Stewart. The Lions definitely made the right move by dropping Stewart since he is no where worth $5 million a year. The Lions also dropped Luther Elliss, who turned out to be nothing but damaged goods the past two years and Bill Schroeder, who was if not the worst free agent signing in Lions history. I was glad to see the Lions work out a deal with Robert Porcher, who said this year will be his last. Rumor has it that Charles Rogers is still stuggling in his recovery from shoulder surgery last year. Its unfortunate that Rogers may never live up to being the #2 pick overall. With the rash of injuries he's had in the past two years, I just hope he can stay healthy. As luck would have it, the two wide receivers taken after Rogers, Andre Johnson and Antwan Bouldin, had great rookie seasons.

With the NFL draft right around the corner, I'm curious to see who the Lions will end up taking with their 1st and 2nd round picks. A lot will have to do with who is available when they draft. If Miami safety Sean Taylor is avialable, the Lions will grab him. Scouts are saying Taylor could be one of the best safety's in the NFL within a few years. With the 2nd round pick, I would expect the Lions to take a wide receiver. This years draft is loaded with wide receivers that could make an immediate impact. If the Lions have a strong draft, sign a couple more free agents and can stay healthy, they should have a good chance at reaching the .500 plateau for the first time in five years.

My Commentary 12/29/03:
This was almost as shocking as three years ago when the Bears stunned the Lions to prevent them from making the playoffs. How could the Lions, losers of three ugly games in a row, beat the St. Louis Rams who had won seven games in a row? Not even to mention that the Rams needed a victory for home field througout the playoffs. Joey Harrington, who was just awful the past few games, played his best game since the first game of the year and threw to nine different players. It did not appear the Lions were headed to victory. After playing a great 1st quarter, a few blunders on special teams (penalty and blocked punt) led to 10 points for the Rams. At the half, St. Louis was up 10 and it appeared the honolulu blue and silver were going to mail it in for the rest of the season. To my disbelief, they played one of the most exciting halves of football in several years against one of the best teams in the NFL. Like they did against the Packers, the Defense made some huge plays and created three turnovers, including a vicious hit by Otis Smith that knocked Bulger out of the game. Dre Bly had another great game and made up for his costly mistakes last week. Jason Hanson was Mr. Automatic once again and helped give the Lions a 10 point 4th quarter lead which they easily held onto. I'm still in a stake of shock that the Lions were able to win this game. Unfortunately, it could have a bad impact on their draft position. Regardless, there was no better way to finish a 3rd straight miserable season with a victory over the Rams.

Another miserable season comes to an end with the Lions shocking the St. Louis Rams. Although the Lions looked great against the Rams, lets not forget the past three games. The Lions looked like the worst team in the NFL. Fortunately, with parity and free agency, the Lions may have a shot at .500 next year. But for that to happen, they must land a decent running back and have a strong draft. It would also be great to sign Boss Bailey's older brother Champ, although that is a long shot. If there has been one consistent thing the past three years, it has been injuries. The Lions had the most players on injured reserved this year. Can you imagine if Stewart, Rogers, Cash and Goodman were all healthy? There is no doubt in my mind the Lions would have won a few more games. Unfortunately, the injury bug has gotten the best of them since Millen took over. Speaking of Millen, Ford Sr. said before the game that Matt is coming back for another year. That went in one ear and out the other as I knew there was no way he was getting fired. I do believe that Millen must have a strong offseason and the Lions better improve on their 5-11 record this year. One year from now, we should have a much better idea if he will be back for his 5th and final year as president of the Lions. I would like to wish everyone a safe and healthy New Year.

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