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Lions' offense has yet to lift off

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Posted Sept. 30, 2010 @ 9:24 a.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

Losing QB Matthew Stafford before the end of the first half of Week One clearly was a huge blow to the Lions' offense, but there are plenty of other things this unit must work on to get better — even without him.

Backup Shaun Hill is solid but limited in what he can do with this group. That said, there have been issues that have less to do with Hill and more with other players and their shortcomings.

The team is having trouble getting the ball enough to WR Calvin Johnson, and it goes beyond Hill. One reason why they have had trouble is because of the ankle injury suffered by WR Nate Burleson one play into the Week Two loss to the Eagles. Burleson has not returned since, and it leaves Johnson as the only big-play threat at wideout.

The other wideouts, Bryant Johnson and Derrick Williams, have disappointed. Neither one has any special skill that makes defenses take coverage away from Calvin Johnson and on them.

The Lions are using TE Brandon Pettigrew quite a bit in the passing game, but his hands are starting to become an issue. He has dropped passes at an alarming rate this season, including a couple of key drops that stalled drives or prevented scores. Pettigrew has made an impressive return from knee surgery and is considered a key part of the offense. But he must show better consistency in his receiving to live up to his promise and kick-start the offense.

Fellow TE Tony Scheffler has stepped in as a receiving target, but he doesn't offer the same kind of route tree that Burleson does.

The lack of a productive run game also has hurt. RB Jahvid Best showed spurts of explosion against the Eagles but was held relatively in check as a runner in the other two contests, and he suffered a toe injury that could keep him out this week. Backup Kevin Smith might play in his first action this week, which will help some, but another speed option, Aaron Brown, likely is out for a month.

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