Failed trade leaves Lions scrambling at RB
After suffering his second concussion of the season, it's suddenly uncertain whether Jahvid Best will play again in 2011. (Andrew Weber/US Presswire)
After a late-minute trade Tuesday for Eagles running back Ronnie Brown, the Lions had visions of teaming Brown and Jahvid Best up in the backfield for the rest of the year. Now, they might not have either guy.
Brown's definitely out of the picture -- Detroit's trade fell through when Jerome Harrison, the running back the Lions sent to Philadelphia in exchange for Browns, failed his physical. A report Thursday said that doctors actually found Harrison to have a brain tumor.
The news of Harrison's ailment came just hours after a report from CBS' Mike Freeman, who wrote that "people close to" Best are encouraging him to sit out the remainder of the season. Best suffered his second concussion of 2011 last week against San Francisco. He also dealt with a severe concussion during his senior year at Cal.
With Brown not coming and Harrison likely not taking the field any time soon, if Best has to miss any time or shuts it down for 2011, the Lions will find themselves stretched thin at running back.
As of now, should Best miss Sunday's game against Atlanta, Maurice Morris would receive the start, with Keiland Williams and possibly return man Stefan Logan seeing time. Best's answer Wednesday when asked if he can play in Week 7? "I have no idea."
With the passing of the trade deadline, the Lions' options are severely limited when it comes to adding more talent.
If Harrison is able to play he could add a little punch, though he has just 41 yards on 14 carries this season. Detroit also signed former Redskins and Browns RB James Davis to the practice squad this week.
Beyond that, the list of free agents isn't exactly compelling: Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis, Mike Bell, Kevin Smith and so on.
Bell was with Detroit in training camp -- he signed at about the same time as Harrison, right after rookie Mikel Leshoure tore his Achilles.
Smith, meanwhile, spent an injury-plagued three years with Detroit before hitting the free agent market this summer. He reportedly worked out for the Giants this week, providing at least some indication that he's in football shape. Given that Smith knows the Lions' organization and offense, he could be a candidate to return.
If there's a silver lining here for Detroit, it's that the Lions have gotten to 5-1 largely without a rushing attack. Detroit ranks 25th in the league at 90.8 rush yards per game, a number boosted by Best's 88-yard TD scamper against Chicago in Week 5.
Morris also has been in this situation before for Detroit -- he picked up three starts in 2009 and seven last year. He's also pitched in as a receiver out of the backfield, an important part of Best's role in the offense, making 56 catches since 2009.
Best was Detroit's home-run hitter out of the backfield, though, something that's sorely lacking without him. Brown's addition would not really have helped in that regard -- Detroit was hoping he could provide some red-zone punch, similar to the role Leshoure was tagged for after the draft. And there's no one sitting on the free agent market with anywhere near Best's abilities. So for now, the Lions will cross their fingers that their No. 1 running back is good to go -- and that losing Brown back to Philadelphia doesn't leave them between a rock and a hard place.