2006 season recap
Lions remain tamed
The Lions finished a dismal 3-13 under first-year head coach Rod Marinelli. Offensively, the team ranked dead last in the league in rushing, due in large part to Kevin Jones missing significant time to injury. Without a solid running attack, QB Jon Kitna threw for more than 4,000 yards and the passing game ranked seventh in the league. But the defense was near the bottom of the league in all categories, resulting in some major changes in the offseason.
Key camp questions
Did the team do enough to improve the secondary?
After the Lions lost their best cornerback (Dre' Bly) and saftey (Terrence Holt) from a pass defense that ranked last in the league in opponent's completion percentage, many thought the team would turn to the draft to fill the holes. Instead, they added veteran Travis Fisher and chose to build from within. The Lions will rely on third-year CB Stanley Wilson, second-year safety Daniel Bullocks and sixth-year safety Idrees Bashir. The hope is that a second year in coach Marinelli's Cover 2 system will help.
Will the offense improve in year two under offensive coordinator Mike Martz?
Based on Kitna's proclamation earlier this summer that the Lions will win 10 games, it's pretty clear he's been drinking the Martz brand of Kool-Aid. Martz developed Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger in St. Louis and is known for his complicated schemes, which means Kitna should be more comfortable in his second full year at the helm. And the addition of rookie Calvin Johnson should create even more opportunities for Roy Williams (82 rec., 1,310 yards) and Mike Furrey (98, 1,086).
Can first-round pick Calvin Johnson live up to the high expectations?
The No. 2 overall draft pick has been hailed as a can't-miss, game-changing receiver. At 6-foot-5, the former Georgia Tech star should connect often with Kitna, and his speed is expected to give defenses fits. His ability to step in right away could be the key to making or breaking Kitna's 10-game win prediction.
Key position battle
Kevin Jones vs. Tatum Bell
Primary running back Jones is coming back from a foot injury, so the Lions secured Bell from Denver in the offseason. Both backs are versatile, but Jones is a better blocker and has the advantage of having already spent a full season getting familiar with Martz's offensive scheme.
QB Drew Stanton
The second-round pick from Michigan State will develop quickly playing behind a veteran like Kitna, who previously kept the starter's seat warm for Carson Palmer in Cincinnati. An intelligent, consistent passer, the 6-4 Stanton doesn't make costly mistakes and can pick up yards if chased out of the pocket.
Player on the spot
QB Jon Kitna
Entering his 11th season, Kitna put the Lions on the front page in June by predicting the team would win 10 games in 2007. The Lions haven't done that in 12 years, so his bold statement has put a little added pressure on him to make it happen. With a number of good offensive weapons around him, Kitna will have to resist the urge to do too much by himself to fulfill his offseason prophecy.
Furrey came out of nowhere to record career bests in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns last season, but the addition of rookie phenom Calvin Johnson has hurt his overall draft value. In fact, the former Arena League standout should now be considered no more than a No. 4 fantasy wideout.