Via the social networks on the interwebs, the Lions' injury report for the Packers game on Thanksgiving has leaked out. One player listed is anything but a surprise.
And no, I'm not referring to the rookie punter, Ryan Donahue.
Lions injury report: Lawrence Jackson is doubtful, Jahvid Best & Ryan Donahue out, Willie Young is questionable, Calvin probable for Thurs.
Jahvid Best will be missing his 5th consecutive game thanks to the after effects of suffering his second concussion of the season against the Niners in mid-October. He's yet to be cleared by doctors not do much of anything, save for putting on sweats and standing on the sidelines during practices.
Do I want Best to return before the season ends? Of course. But will it be in his and the Lions' nest interest? That, I'm not so sure. Best has yet to start working out, so if he even can return this season, one has to wonder just how productive he could be. I'd have to believe the Lions' use of Best would be somewhat limited.
The Lions have stumbled upon a running game with the rescued from football Siberia Kevin Smith and veteran warhorse Maurice Morris. Shockingly, the Lions are averaging 4.6 YPA since the signing of Smith, which is exactly what Best had averaged in 5 games. But Best's numbers are badly skewed by his averaging 13.1 YPA in the win over the Bears. If you factor out the Bears outlier, Best's average drops to 3.15 YPA, which isn't what you want to see from your "feature back."
Sure, Smith's average could ultimately be skewed by the performance against Panthers. But now fully recovered from his 2009 knee injury, he really has looked like the promising runner he was in 2008, not the disappointment of 2009-10. Thanksgiving may confirm things, one way or the other.
What the Lions have really missed from Best are his skills as a receiver out of the backfield. Best was averaging 5 catches a game for 57 yards when healthy. Smith finally gave the Lions a similar weapon out of the backfield, with 4 catches for 61 yards and a TD.
If Best can return this season, he may be best utilized in situations where his receiving skills can be used to the utmost, ie: a 3rd down/change of pace back. I rather he not try to run between the tackles, which can be much more ably handled by Smith and Morris.
But all this is speculation based on Best actually returning to the field, of which the odds get longer and longer as the games pass. With the emergence of Smith, the Lions may not feel a need to rush Best back. Honestly, no matter what odds you gave me, I wouldn't bet on Best taking the field again this season.
If Smith can continue to prop up the running game, it's win-win for everyone. The Lions will have what had been a missing dimension to the offense, which can only help Matthew Stafford. Smith will be well on his way to earning a new NFL contract, be it with the Lions or another team in need of backfield depth.
Most importantly, Best won't have to risk his health by returning to the team too soon.