Camp fires Day 24: Previewing the Bengals
Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with notes, quotes and observations of interest.
I'm off to Cincinnati for Game 2 of the preseason, but I wanted to leave you with a three things I'll be watching closely in tomorrow's game:
The run game. The Lions carried 35 times for a measly 84 yards against the Giants. Take out four kneel-downs and a failed end around, and the final numbers (30 for 94) still weren't good. Kevin Smith should see more playing time in his bid to overtake Tatum Bell for the starting job, but the real focus here is the offensive line. Rod Marinelli wants a physical, overpowering front. The personnel isn't there for that completely yet, but things should be better with more work. Edwin Mulitalo is back at left guard, which should help some, and if rookie Gosder Cherilus plays well he could join Smith in the starting lineup next week.
Devale Ellis. Ellis has established himself as the No. 5 receiver with a very good camp catching the ball. The Lions, however, need him to be a force in the return game. He didn't get the opportunity last week against the Giants no one did, really; Taye Biddle had a return of 2 yards, Aveion Cason of minus-2, and rookie Kenny Moore had one for no gain but two years ago he filled in admirably for Eddie Drummond, returning a punt 48 yards against Chicago. Ellis has the explosiveness to be a weapon as a return man, he just has to show it.
Jordon Dizon. The rookie second-round pick was on my list last week, too, and he made a great fourth-down play, stuffing a run to turn the ball over on defense. With the season opener three weeks away, the Lions have to figure out what to do with their middle-linebacker position. I wrote yesterday that I'd move Paris Lenon to the strong side and keep Dizon at the position he's spent the whole preseason learning. I'm not sure how the coaches feel on the matter, but I do know they'll need to feel extremely comfortable in Dizon's knowledge of the defense to make that switch. Lenon is a good linebacker. I've said it before, he's underrated simply because he's not the fastest, strongest prototype for the position. But and Marinelli can appreciate this Dizon is like Cory Redding, Dewayne White, Leigh Bodden, Ernie Sims and Dwight Smith in that he makes plays every day during practice. There's something to be said for that.