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Lions Review 2010 - Running Backs

The 2010 season made it hard to give an honest review of the Detroit Lions running backs. For most of the season the Lions running game was non-existent, and yet, there were some extraneous circumstances to say the least. The best I can do is give the good and bad of each player.

Jahvid Best:
The Detroit Lions traded with the Vikings to move back into the first round and take Best with their second 1st round pick of the 2010 draft. He showed some flashes of what he can be but suffering two turf toe injuries held him down. When healthy, Best has extreme speed as well as great shiftiness with decent vision to help him escape tackles.

Many fans believe Best is better off being used like a Reggie Bush type of player. Those analogies come from the fact he was injured and not being the prototypical size for a running back. I for one, am not one of those believers. If you look back through the best running backs in history, many of them are the 195 to 205 pound speedy and shifty kind of players.

If Best can stay healthy, he can be an every down starter, but he will be dependent on the Lions willingness to throw the ball down field. He needs the defense to be on their heels to give him that little extra running room. But then, every running back needs that.

Kevin Smith:
He looked like he might be a decent running back in his rookie season but has not shown that since. A lot of fans like him. They believe he is a great compliment to Jahvid Best. I don't see it. Smith has mediocre speed, and mid level running power. He has very good vision and is a good blocking back, but those two things without speed or power are nothing to get excited about. In no way is he a threat to a defense. He simply cannot break away for a long touchdown and he will not break many tackles either. Pile his inability to stay healthy on top of that and he becomes the least valuable running back on the team.

Smith is an average running back who is injury prone. Not something the Lions should be spending a roster spot on.

Maurice Morris:
Morris reminds me of Thomas Jones but just not as good. He is the kind of running back who always seems to play well when given a chance to carry the load, but nobody ever wants to let him continue to carry the load. When Smith went down in 2009, Morris came in and played well. When Best and Smith were injured in 2010? Morris came in and had some of the best running games of the season for the Lions. Yet most fans see Best and Smith as the top running backs again for 2011.

Maurice Morris runs north and south and runs with above average power. He is not extremely shifty, but he has the ability to hit the hole on the run and burst through it. He would make an outstanding backup running back to give Best a break when he needs it. Unfortunately the Thomas Jones in him will relegate him to third string while a player with lesser talent and injury prone is placed above him.

Aaron Brown:
When he gets the chance, he often makes decent yardage, but he lacks vision and patience. Brown runs hard and goes all out to get yardage, but he does not change directions to hit open field or make players miss. He is a bee line runner who lets his speed get as many yards as possible before he runs into a defensive player.

Jerome Felton:
Listed as a full back, Felton is more of a large running back, and though the fans seem to like him, he is really wasting a spot on the roster. The Lions need a fullback who can lead block and blow the linebackers or safeties out of the holes to free Best for longer gains. Something Felton is not very strong at. It is rare the Lions will use him to lead block and instead, he is often used to run the ball. Yet he does not run with any true power. I have never heard any player comment on how he hates to run into Felton.

Felton is a big running back who runs with more power than anyone else on the Lions roster, but not with a lot of power in comparison to other fullbacks in the league. The Lions would be better of acquiring a fullback who hits like a train.

Stefan Logan:
In Logan, the Lions may just have a very special player, but they don't seem to realize just how special. They see him as a great return man who can come in and give an odd play here and there. In the CFL, Logan had over 7 yards per carry and his ability has shone through in his limited chances with the Lions. In 2010 he only had 15 carries but gained 93 yards for 6.3 yards per carry. This coming in a season when the Lions running backs had very little room.

Logan has great speed, is extremely quick and shifty and is the rare case where his lack of size is actually a good thing. He is only 5' 6" tall and 190 lbs. That small size allows him to get lost behind the big guys battling in the trenches and the linebackers and safeties have a hard time following him. If the Lions would use him more, he may just show what he can do.

2011 Outlook:
Likely the RB situation will be the same as 2010, with Best and Smith leading the troops and Morris and Felton backing them up. Brown may make the roster another year but likely it would be his last.

If I had it my way however, I would see Best as the starter and Morris as the backup and Brown and Felton holding down the reserves. I would try to get anything I can for Smith and I would work Logan much more into the picture than he was last year. I would even like to see some two RB sets with Best and Logan together. I would be rid of Smith and maybe even Brown and look to sign a true fullback.

The running game will really depend on the passing game however. If the Lions will throw down field and force the defense to back off a little, the RBs will find more room. If Stafford gets hurt again however, and Hill becomes the starter? The Lions will once again find themselves without a running game because Hill tends to never throw the ball more than 7 yards deep.

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