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Kevin Smith's Injury Could be Blessing in Disguise

The Detroit Lions running back, Kevin Smith left the game on Sunday with an injured shoulder. Jim Schwartz has recently said that he will stay in full compliance of the leagues injury report rules, but he will not give out one single iota of extra information. This makes me wonder what he would have to hide.

Kevin Smith has looked pretty good at times this seasons as he has pushed for positive yardage consistently. He is stronger than last year and rather than going down when he hits a wall, he has often pushed it as he has fallen forward. Yet, I have to ask myself, how bad would it be for the Lions if Kevin Smith couldn't play? I don't believe for one moment that Maurice Morris is as good as Kevin Smith, but it isn't Morris I would like to see more of. I would be interested to see Aaron Brown get a decent share of touches at the running back position in a game.

If there is one knock on Kevin Smith, it is his lack of top end speed. He does not seem to have the extra gear to take the ball the distance when he does break into the open field. He has strength, shiftiness and decent vision to break into the open once in a while. But when he does break open, he is always dragged down from behind. In all honesty, when he does break into the open field, I still do not jump to my feet with excitement like I used to with Sanders. Simply because I do not believe Smith can turn it into a touchdown unless he is already in the redzone.

Aaron Brown however would be different. Brown has some real speed and if he got into open field, he might actually take one the distance. That long ball threat will excite fans a little more and it will keep defenses a little more honest. Defenses will have to make a little more sure that Brown doesn't get into the open field because he can take one the distance. The more a defense needs to worry about the run, the less that can worry about the pass.

Don't miss-understand me. I like Kevin Smith. I really do! But I just happen to like really fast running backs a little more. If Adrian Peterson wasn't fast enough to score from the other end of the field, would he be a running back defenses schemed against? As shifty as Barry Sanders was, would he have been the star he was if he was not as fast as he was? It is the real speedsters that create the excitement. It is the long ball hitters that worry defenses.

Sure there have been a few power running backs that have put fear into defenses. Jim Brown was one of course. There was Christian Okoye as well. Today there is Brandon Jacobs in New York. The thing that separates those guys from running backs like Kevin Smith are their size. They were big enough that defenses take a beating from trying to tackle them. They carried defensive players five extra yards. Even Billy Simms had that kind of power. Often I saw him drag two or three players an extra five yards before finally falling into the endzone. Kevin Smith is a strong runner, but he does not have that kind of strength.

If Kevin Smith cannot play Sunday, they will likely play Maurice Morris a lot more than Aaron Brown. I think that would be a mistake. With Kevin Smith, the Lions running game was looking okay, but it was not great. Morris would only serve to give the Lions more of the same, only not quite as good as Kevin Smith. If they turned to Brown however, there is an outside chance the running game could be great. All it would take is for Aaron Brown to break free and take one to the house just one time, then the Bears defense would really have to worry about him. One long run from Brown could do more for the Lions than what Morris would do all day.

Make no bones about it, the Lions are not in the position to play it safe. If they wanted to play it safe, they would have started Culpepper to begin the season. Schwartz decided to go with StafFORD because he had the higher upside. If the Lions want to win in Chicago, and Ken Smith can't go, they need to gamble and go with the higher upside again and play Brown. If Kevin Smith cannot play Sunday, then giving the ball to Brown is the only way to turn Smith's injury into a blessing rather than a hinderance.

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