As Camp winds down, the preseason is half over, and the Turk is gearing up for the first round of cuts roster battles intensify, and solidify. Lets look beyond the QB debate, and into two other positions where there is some heated competition taking place: RB now, and WR tonight.
At RB, Brian VanOchten absurdly suggested advocated signing TJ Duckett because the Lions have a “glaring hole” at short yardage back. His reasoning? Cason was stuffed for one 4th and short in the preseason loss to the Browns. Ummm…Brian, while I like TJ Duckett, and agree they should have kept him at the end of 2007, that was then — this is 2 years later. He is two years older. Kevin Smith is the feature back. Oh yeah, the Lions also have this young sledgehammer named Jerome Felton. When running what I would consider the true Jumbo package (Terelle Smith at FB blocking for Felton carrying the ball), Felton knocked over defenders and dragged them along for extra yardage in the Browns game. He is a load to bring down, and will be the bruising back that grinds down the defense, and hammers short yardage situations while 34K gets a breather. That was his specialty in college, and he appears to be translating that talent nicely to the NFL level.
As far as I can see, unless the Lions carry more back than I anticipate, the RB situation will shake out as follows:
1) Kevin Smith-Feature Back
2) Maurice Morris-Veteran backup
3) Aaron Brown- Speed Back/Slot/WR out of the backfield/KOR
4) Terrell Smith- Blocking Back
5) Jerome Felton- Blocking Back/3rd Down Back/Short Yardage Back
Morris and T. Smith are solid vets, Smith and Felton have the rookie jitters out of the way and are coming into their own, and Brown is a speedy young rook with lots of potential on offense and special teams. Who would you cut to sign someone like Duckett? Ervin, if he can get healthy, is a practice squad candidate (and possible future replacement for Morris if he progresses well). Cason is versatile, but he is a true Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. As has often been the case, I have a feeling he will be there to get the phone call once again if someone goes down with a serious injury. He is just going to be a victim of the numbers game — numbers that don’t have an opening or a glaring hole for another player. Remember, they already had to cut a potential speedster in Antoine Smith because they had so many good young backs.
RB is one of the few positions where the Lions have both talent and depth, and I like how Mayhew filled out the unit around Felton and 34K Smith. This coaching staff is showing that if a player has talent, they will do what they can to harness it to help win games.
Something tells me that with the Offensive Line looking better and starting to gel, and the great mix of backs on the roster, the Lions will have a strong running game this season. IF…