As I followed the reactions in the wake of Mikel Leshoure’s season ending achilles injury, I found they generally fell in one of two groups. One, an immediate entrance into the freak out zone and two, disappointment for Leshoure coupled with a vote of confidence for Maurice Morris.
Jahvid Best is healthy and Maurice Morris showed an ability to fill in when needed last season. The two could hold down the running back duties for the 2011 season but I’m not comfortable with the lack of depth behind them. Why should a team that planned on a Best-Leshoure-Morris trio stand pat after it suddenly became a Best-Morris duo? Bell or Harrison can’t be viewed as a direct replacement for Mikel Leshoure but one may prove to be adequate depth on the roster.
Mike Bell made a name for himself by running for 677 yards (4.2 yards/carry) and eight touchdowns as an undrafted rookie for the Denver Broncos in 2006. Unfortunately, Bell hasn’t posted a rushing average over 4 yards per carry since. He may be a competent body to run with the second or third team offense in the preseason but he isn’t the guy I’m most interested to see of the two the Lions brought in today.
That brings us to Jerome Harrison – the man that broke the Cleveland Browns’ single game rushing record. That record was previously held by Jim Brown, perhaps you’ve heard of him. You know, the guy that Barry Sanders‘ own father said was the best running back in the history of the NFL. Let me be clear, the Lions aren’t getting a future Hall of Famer with Harrison but he’s shown an ability to pick up yards in chunks.
A rough start to the 2010 season led the Browns to trade Harrison to the Philadelphia Eagles (for Mike Bell, ironically enough) where he played in eight games and posted a 6.0 yards per carry average. For his career, Harrison has gained 1,640 yards on 342 carries, good enough for an average of 4.8 yards each time he takes a handoff.
Harrison has mostly played in limited spots so far but the good news is that the Lions have the luxury of using him in the same way. Harrison, or Bell for that matter, won’t be the savior of the Lions’ offense but we need to remember that Mikel Leshoure was meant as a compliment as well.