Note: The following is a guest post submitted by SideLion Report reader Eric Ford. Please click here if you would like to have an article considered for publishing.
With free agency up in the air and the draft around the corner, let’s take a look at how the Lions stand at the running back position.
Last year’s group of running backs was Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris, Kevin Smith, and Aaron Brown. Due to injuries there is a lot of unknown going into 2011 based on last year’s production. But there is some big potential for 2011 and probably some new faces as well.
Jahvid Best had a very up and down rookie year because of injuries. Shortly into the season he had turf toe problems which caused him to miss a lot of time. The painful injury did not allow him to make cuts like normal and slowed him down to a slower speed than he is accustomed to. The only remedy for a turf toe injury is to stay off it, which also cost him practice time during the week. But before his injury did he ever show the potential of what a healthy Best can do for the Lions. In week 2 versus the Eagles, Best showed what he can. He had 78 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns accompanied by 154 yards receiving with a highlight reel 75 yard touchdown catch and run. For the year he only rushed for 555 yards on 171 carries for a weak 3.2 average. He had 4 rushing TD’s but those were all in the first 2 weeks of the season. It does appear the turf toe really did slow him down a lot. It seems if the Lions can get Jahvid the ball in the open field the yards will pile up. Noticed a majority of his carries were directed between the tackles and I don’t believe this is really his best asset. Hopefully with turf toe behind him, the Lions can focus on getting Jahvid the ball where he will do the most damage, in the short passing game and misdirection running plays to the outside where he can use his speed and moves. Barring injuries, Best will be the starting running back for the Lions in 2011.
The backups were pretty unspectacular the majority of the year. Maurice Morris was the best of the bunch, which included Kevin Smith and Aaron Brown. Morris did not really make a mark until the last 7 games of the season when he saw the majority of the carries due to injuries to Best. He did rush 90 times for 336 for an average of 3.7 per carry. He did have 5 TD’s including 2 in the Thanksgiving game versus the Patriots and 1 each over the last 3 games of the year. With his strong finish I believe he makes a good backup for Best. Smith on the other hand has had an injury plagued career. He was not tendered an offer by the Lions this off-season and has become a free agent. Aaron Brown showed signs of brilliance his rookie season during the preseason versus the backups. But problems with learning the playbook and blocking breakdowns have made Aaron of little use for the Lions. His biggest asset is his speed, very fast with good moves, but we have yet to see it on the field during a regular season game. This will probably be the make or break year for Brown during camp and the preseason. With free agent signings possible, it’s very possible we may have seen the last of Aaron Brown in a Lions uniform, unless he really steps it up.
So with the departure of Kevin Smith, there is room on the roster for the Lions to add another running back. They really need to add one that is in more of the power back mode, the guy that will run over players and loves the contact. It’s unlikely the Lions will find that RB in the draft, which hopefully will be more focused on the defense in the first 3 rounds. There are some intriguing free agents that hopefully the Lions will look to fill this need. My favorite for the position is Michael Bush formerly of the Raiders. He fits this mold to a “T” and is a bruising back at the goal line and short yardage situations. Other names that may be of interest are Cadillac Williams and Cedric Benson. The pickings are slim, so hopefully the Lions can focus on Bush and get him signed. But of course as I type the Raiders just placed a 1st and 3rd round tender offer on Bush so that makes him unavailable now, unless the Lions want him so bad they give the Raiders their 1st and 3rd round picks for him, a most unlikely scenario.
Barring injuries and the addition of a big back, the Lions running back situation for the 2011 season is a good one. This could be the season that Jahvid Best shows what a steal he was late in the first round on a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Hopefully the toe problem is history and another star is born in Motown.