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'08 Game Preview: Lions

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As the Texans gear up for training camp, excitement for the 2008 season continues to build. Here is an in-depth look at each of the team's regular season games with some insights from SportsRadio 610's Marc Vandermeer.

Teams: Texans vs. Detroit Lions (Sunday, Oct. 19)

Game Preview: Coach Rod Marinelli's Detroit Lions, a blue-collar team that finished last season 7-9, will visit Reliant Stadium in Week 7. Marinelli's players have spent the offseason working on their running game and improving their secondary.

{QUOTE}After firing offensive coordinator Mike Martz and promoting offensive line coach Jim Colletto, the Lions decided to install a new zone-blocking scheme to improve their running game, which ranked 31st in the NFL last year. Veterans like left tackle Jeff Backus and left guard Edwin Mulitalo will be key to making the scheme successful, and rookie Gosder Cherilus will be given a baptism of fire at right tackle. Right now, Tatum Bell, who played in a zone scheme in Denver, appears to be the starting running back with third-round pick Kevin Smith backing him up. Stuffing Detroit's running game should be relatively easy for the Texans, considering Houston's defense will have gotten to practice a lot against a zone blocking scheme.

The Lions do have more firepower at wideout, boasting one of the league's best receiving duos in Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. After a quiet rookie season in 2007, Johnson possesses the potential to blossom into something special his sophomore year. And quarterback Jon Kitna, who finished with 4,068 yards last season, has the potential to connect on deep plays. Still, Marinelli has said he is committed to running the ball, which could be a good thing for the Texans' defense.

"You look at Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams, they have some weapons," Vandermeer said. "Running the football, though, that's where the weakness is going to be. Tatum Bell is back for Detroit. Kevin Smith, they drafted him, I think he could be a nice NFL player. But I think you can force them into long down-and-distance situations and send Mario Williams after Kitna – send Rosevelt Colvin after Kitna – get to him and make some things happen, force some turnovers."

On offense, the Texans should be able to take advantage of the Lions' secondary. Detroit added some stability to the unit by signing cornerback Brian Kelly and safety Dwight Smith, but quarterback Matt Schaub should be able to rack up yardage throwing long bombs to Andre Johnson or André Davis. Plus, linebacker Ernie Sims and defensive lineman Cory Redding both had arthroscopic shoulder surgery during the offseason and could be slowed this year.

"When you are the Texans, you want to run the football," Vandermeer said. "You want to go for long plays with Matt Schaub going to André Davis and Andre Johnson."

Key Matchups: Defensive end Mario Williams bulldozing quarterback Jon Kitna. Wide receiver André Davis going deep against the Lions' secondary.

Special Note: Former Texans personnel, such as Kippy Brown (wide receivers coach), Iain Nelson (football operations assistant) and Eric Sutulovich (assistant special teams), work for the Lions now. Brown serves as the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator, while Nelson is the director of football administration and Sutulovich is an offensive assistant.

Vandermeer's pick: "If the Texans are able to stuff the run, like we expect, they should be able to use Kitna as a piñata to force those turnovers. It's another Texans' double-digit win to go along with what we said about the Miami Dolphins if things shake out the way we draw them up on paper here in June and July."

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