The biggest story so far coming out of Detroit Lions training camp is running back Jahvid Best being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. It’s not a huge surprise that Best isn’t fully recovered from his concussion, but there were rumblings earlier in the summer that Best was feeling back to normal and would be ready to go in camp. Best will be eligible to return to action if he is cleared for football activity anytime during camp, but if he remains on the PUP list when the regular season starts, he won’t be eligible to return until week 6.
Best suffered a concussion in last year’s October 16 game against the San Francisco 49ers on what appeared to be a very innocent “football play.” He suffered a severe concussion in one of the ugliest injuries I’ve ever seen while playing at California during his college career.
The other two options the Lions have on their current roster at RB are Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith. Both have injury concerns of their own, as Smith has missed significant time with injuries in every season he’s played and Leshoure blew out his Achilles tendon before playing a single game last season. MLive reports that Leshoure has already tweaked his hamstring during camp. Leshoure also faces a two-game suspension to start the 2012 campaign due to off the field issues.
The reality of the situation is that the Lions are likely going into the regular season with one healthy RB who has a history of not being able to stay that way. So what are the Lions options? There isn’t one that jumps out. Here’s a list of some veteran free agents the Lions could add:
- Cedric Benson – Benson may be the Lions best option as a player, but may demand the highest salary. He’s eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark the last three seasons with the Bengals and has stayed relatively healthy over that span. He would be a good addition if he can be had at the right price.
- Ryan Grant – Grant and the Lions were rumored to have mutual interest back in May, but Grant canceled a planned visit to Detroit and there have been no talks since. Grant has had multiple injury issues in the past, but could contribute in a committee type role.
- Joseph Addai – Addai was signed and released by the New England Patriots already this off-season. Addai has also had several injuries during his career, including concussion and knee issues. Addai would likely be short term option until Leshoure returns from suspension.
- Thomas Jones – Jones production has really tailed off over the past two seasons in Kansas City. He played more of a back up role and was generally used in short yardage situations. He probably won’t garner very much attention from the Lions.
- Sammy Morris - Like many players on this list, Morris has battled injuries over the past few seasons. Morris showed flashes of brilliance while playing in New England, but never really has lived up to potential in the NFL.
- Maurice Morris - This is probably the most likely option. The Lions would likely bring Morris back into the mix later in camp since he already has a familiarity with the offense. Although Morris has primarily been a career backup, he could give the team depth early in the season and wouldn’t cost that much to have back on the roster.
- Chester Taylor – Another player who isn’t considered a starter, Taylor would be an interesting option, as he is a third down style back who excels in the passing game. Taylor has struggled since leaving Minnesota three seasons ago.
- Cadillac Williams – Williams is a hard runner that has taken a beating during his seven seasons in the NFL. I’m really not sure how much tread is left on Cadillac’s tires, but he could be a cheap option that could give you a few quality starts.
Like I mentioned before, there isn’t one option that would look like a permanent solution. Out of all the players I listed, only Benson really intrigues me. The most likely option is for the Lions to bring back Maurice Morris. Although trades rarely happen in the NFL, the Lions may want to and probably already have inquired about acquiring a running back via trade. It’s possible that the Lions may wait until after the second or third pre-season game for additional players to get cut before making a decision. Even if Best returns and Leshoure looks good during the remainder of camp, the Lions will have to add another running back to their roster before their season opener against the Rams on September 9. There is no way this team can go into the season without more insurance at such an important position.