Commentary

Lions hope busy offseason leads to '08 turnaround

Scouts Inc. puts the Lions on the clock, breaking down their offseason moves and looking at what questions still need answers.

Originally Published: April 2, 2008
By Ken Moll | Scouts Inc.

As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.

Free-Agent Tracker
Lions
For a complete list of all of the Lions' free agents and all their offseason signings, check out Scouts Inc.'s free-agent tracker.
Who they signed
Who they lost
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The Lions played poorly down the stretch last season, losing seven of their last eight, and the character of the organization will be tested in 2008. Now it has two choices: remain in shock from one of the worst stumbles in recent NFL history, or fight back and show even more resolve to win a division championship. The Lions have been active this offseason, and it appears third-year head coach Rod Marinelli has his players' attention. They have responded to his hard-nosed approach, which may pay off. There is reason to be positive about Detroit's future because it has a talented roster with playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Key Additions

General manager Matt Millen made a concerted effort to retain the players who fit Marinelli's system and philosophy while weeding out those who didn't. The additions of safeties Dwight Smith, Kalvin Pearson and CB Brian Kelly through free agency, along with the trade that brought CB Leigh Bodden to Detroit, should bolster a secondary that already re-signed CBs Keith Smith and Travis Fisher. This is a talented group of athletes which, assuming they stay healthy, should be much improved. DT Chuck Darby was signed in the offseason and will try to fill the void left by the departure of veteran Shaun Rogers, who was part of the Bodden trade. Keeping DE Corey Smith on the roster helps solidify that position. The signing of Michael Gaines adds valuable depth at tight end, while re-signing RBs Tatum Bell and Aveion Cason, OT George Foster and TE John Owens allows the offense to build on its 2008 effort.

Mock Draft: Lions
The Pick (No. 15 overall):
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
Insider

Mendenhall
Todd McShay: The Lions want to become more physical on offense, and Mendenhall has the ideal blend of size, power and burst to help achieve that initiative -- certainly more so than current RBs Tatum Bell and Brian Calhoun.
Complete mock draft Insider
Vote: Team needs

Key Losses

Rogers was the biggest loss and may be the toughest to replace. Losing LBs Boss Bailey (Broncos) and Teddy Lehman (Bucs), CB Fernando Bryant (Patriots), DE Kalimba Edwards (Raiders) and S Kenoy Kennedy (free agent) may affect Detroit's special teams more than anything else. There were also several departures on the offense. RB T.J. Duckett (Seahawks) and G Damien Woody (Jets) were lost in free agency, and injury-prone RB Kevin Jones was released. All three players will be hard to replace because no running back of any notable size is on the roster, and Woody was one of the Lions' most consistent linemen. QB J.T. O'Sullivan (49ers) and WR Troy Walters (free agent) were also lost in free agency, while G Blaine Saipaia was released. However, the loss of those players won't have a big impact, and Detroit's offense still should be able to move the ball effectively and score.

Remaining Questions

Can the offensive line elevate its play and protect the quarterback more effectively? Detroit yielded 54 sacks and forced Jon Kitna to get rid of the ball too early too often. And is Kitna, a 12-year veteran, the one to lead the Lions to the next level, or is it time to insert talented, young Drew Stanton, assuming he bounces back from his 2007 knee injury? Another question is how effective the ground attack will be without the services of Jones and Duckett. New offensive coordinator Jim Colletto clearly wants to run the ball more, and in a division where establishing an effective ground attack is imperative, who will carry the load has yet to be determined. Finally, it will be interesting to see how the defense responds after losing a few mainstays from the lineup. Still, it all comes back to how this franchise responds from its second-half collapse last season. How well this club responds mentally likely will determine how well it plays on the field.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Ken Moll

Scouts Inc.
Ken Moll spent 13 years scouting in the NFL, six with the Cleveland Browns, five with the Jacksonville Jaguars and two with the National Football Scouting combine. Before that, he spent 15 years as a collegiate assistant, nine at Richmond and six at Louisville, his alma mater.