Is Jahvid Best ready for a feature role in Detroit?

Cal running back Jahvid Best is going to see the ball a lot this season in Detroit’s offense. We know that because the Lions traded back into the first round to get Best for a reason. Teams usually don’t give away picks to scoop up players that aren’t going to have an impact in certain packages on Sunday.

But, according to Tom Kowalski of, the role for Best is going to be expanded to a point where he could become the feature back behind QB Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Lions offense in the 2010 season.

As the NFP’s Joe Fortenbaugh wrote this morning, last year’s starter, Kevin Smith, is coming off of ACL surgery. And, with every player that has a season ending knee issue, we won’t know where he is at until we see him in camp—and even then it isn’t a guarantee that he will have the same explosive power of the past. It sound like a perfect plan, and as you will hear over and over by anyone with an opinion on this league, rookies seem to be able to adjust to the pro game with more ease at the running back position.

I agree to an extent, because playing RB at any level is based off of instinct, the ability to cut back and break tackles. But, in the NFL, rookie backs also struggle when it comes to pass protection.

Defensive coordinators in this league spend a week preparing for offenses for this exact reason, and every week new blitzes and installed to beat protection schemes. Think of teams like the Steelers or the Ravens—two teams that use overload blitzes and drop players into coverage. They do this to beat the protection and get a free runner to the quarterback. And, when a rookie is in the backfield, we usually see a busted protection and a QB on the ground.

Even in the NFC North, with the man pressure schemes of Dom Capers’ Packers or the zone blitzes that we will see from Lovie Smith and Chicago, they are much more advanced and complicated than Best saw out in the Pac Ten.

I like what Best brings from an offensive perspective. And I do see him as a player who can flip the field and add to this young offense. But, when you name a rookie the primary back in your system, there is some give and take.

All because of the learning curve involved when it comes to protecting the QB.

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