Once again, Kevin Smith is the forgotten man on the Detroit Lions running back depth chart. Still, he’s in better shape than he was heading in to the 2011 season when he wasn’t resigned by the Lions and failed to get a shot anywhere else. The door opened for Smith’s mid-season resigning thanks to injuries to Mikel Leshoure, Jerome Harrison and Jahvid Best and ineffectiveness by Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams. Smith’s breakout performance against the Panthers’ might have saved the Lions season and appeared to resolve the Lions issues at the position. However, Smith was unable to stay healthy—as has always been his problem—and his performance suffered because of it.
It seemed that Smith’s tenure as a Lions running back would once again come to an end. Mikel Leshoure would claim the every down back duties with Jahvid Best serving as a third down and change of pace burner—but Leshoure’s off-field issues and Best’s concussions are at least temporarily putting the Lions’ grand plans on hold. Because of this, Kevin Smith is once again getting a chance to prove he’s good enough to be a part of the picture—if not be the entire picture.
He’s been injured a ton, but when healthy Smith has been an above average back. He scored 7 TDs in an abbreviated 2011 appearance and showed the ability to take over a game. If Smith can stay healthy—an enormous if when looking at his track record—he just might force the Lions into making a decision come game #3. Leshoure’s 2-game suspension all but guarantees that Smith will at least make the team out of training back and probably get a heavy load of the carries in opener vs. the Rams and at the 49ers in the Week 2 Sunday Night match-up. Williiams has shown next to nothing, Harrison likely isn’t in the picture due to a scary brain tumor surgery and the rest of the running backs consist of rookies and unprovens. The Lions will be very careful with Best, leaving Smith as the most experienced guy at the position. It’s crazy to think about it, but Kevin Smith is squarely in the mix at running back and might be the favorite to start at the position when the season begins.
I wouldn’t count him out just yet.
Follow me on twitter @detsportsczar or at www.thesportsczar.com