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Returning from last season: Kevin Smith (if he's healthy), Maurice Morris, Aaron Brown
New to the team: DeDe Dorsey (signed with the Lions in February after playing in the UFL in 2009)
When Kevin Smith went down with a nasty knee injury against the Ravens last December, the Lions' running back situation went from being pretty solid to completely up in the air heading into 2010. Smith, despite having to play through shoulder problems, was performing quite well before his season-ending injury and was really one of the bright spots on this team in my mind. Then he got injured and left us all wondering what would happen with the running back position in 2010.
Any questions we had about the state of the running back position were answered toward the end of day one of the 2010 NFL Draft. I was really just watching the coverage at the end to see who would still be available for the Lions to select with the 34th overall selection, but suddenly Detroit went on the clock and picked Cal's Jahvid Best, one of the commonly thrown around names heading into the draft.
Lions coaches have not hidden how much they like the way Best plays. He is a dangerous home-run threat that can score any time he touches the ball. That is something the Lions have been missing from the running back position, and Best has the potential to do it on the ground and in the air as a receiver.
With Best being added to the Lions, the running back position became one of the strongest units on the entire team this offseason. There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding Kevin Smith, but if he can get back from his injury and be effective, then the Lions will have at least two starting-caliber running backs, not to mention solid depth behind Best and Smith.
Maurice Morris filled in admirably for Smith when he went down with his injury, and he obviously has starting experience as a result. Morris is a good option to bring in every once in a while during a game to change things up a bit, and if Smith isn't ready to go at the start of the season, Morris will likely get a good amount of playing time as a complement to Best.
As for Aaron Brown and DeDe Dorsey, they could be fighting for a spot on the team this summer. Both have loads of potential, but the fact of the matter is that spots are limited. It's certainly possible the Lions could keep all of the running backs if Smith starts the season on the PUP list, but either way this will be an interesting training camp battle to watch. We already know what kind of player Brown is, but I'm interested in getting a more in-depth look at Dorsey.
Need going forward?
There really isn't one. The Lions are set with Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith if he's healthy, Maurice Morris and perhaps both Brown and Dorsey. These backs are all similar in ways, but they're different enough that the Lions don't have a need to bring in a different kind of runner, especially when you consider that fullback Jerome Felton can run the ball as well. If anything, the Lions are going to have to get rid of a back when the final round of roster cuts rolls around. Already Cedric Peerman has been cut loose, so space is definitely limited heading into the summer, which is a nice problem to have for a change.
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