Cliff Avril is healthy.
Aaron Brown is healthy.
Neither athletes were on the Detroit Lions week 10 injury report. Both practiced the entire week. Fans consider both young, bright spots on a talent-starved team.
Neither played in week 10 against the Minnesota Vikings.
In his post game presser, Head Coach Jim Schwartz called both, "healthy scratches." And that it was a "gameplan decision." Instead of Cliff Avril and Aaron Brown, Vinny Ciurciu and Melvin White made the gameday roster.
The move, questioned by reporters following the game, was a special teams gambit.
Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings rookie return man, is one of the league's best. His 889 return yards is second only to Darren Sproles. His two return touchdowns are tied with Ted Ginn Jr. No one has more returns of 40 or more yards. No full time returner has a better average.
In week 10, Harvin was held to "only" 29 yards on his only return—not exactly a glowing endorsement of the coverage unit.
Meanwhile, the defense was only able to manage one sack, two QB hits and five tackles for loss without a healthy Cliff Avril.
The rushing attack was able to pick up 93 yards but its second leading rusher was Matthew Stafford. Aaron Brown is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, better than either Kevin Smith or Maurice Morris.
Coach Jim Schwartz claimed that the Lions were "not getting production out of his position," in regards to Aaron Brown. Perhaps the young Lions coach is getting his runners mixed up?
Kevin Smith has rushed the ball 150 times and is only averaging 3.4 yards per carry. If it weren't for his usefulness in the passing game—both receiving and blocking—the Lions would be barely getting anything out of him.
As far as Cliff Avril goes, a reporter asked Schwartz if Avril weren't good enough against the run to start against Adrian Peterson. Schwartz declined to critique the play of the promising second year player.
Avril is second on the team with 2.5 sacks.
Even Bill Belichick knows that decisions get analyzed after after a loss. How much more so for a rookie head coach on a 1-8 team? Obviously, the decision to sit two of your more promising recent draft picks, when healthy, is a decision that should be analyzed.
Is Cliff Avril, who runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, not fast enough to cover kicks? Is he a good enough tackler to play defensive line but not to be on the third wave of a kick unit?
Can Aaron Brown, who is also a failed returner, not apply any pressure as a gunner?
The Detroit Lions kept Terrelle Smith and Jerome Felton, fullbacks, both active. The Lions got no stats out of Smith and a two-yard reception out of Felton—tackles out of neither.
The Detroit Lions also kept Andre Fluellen active on game day who also failed to record a tackle.
Shuffling the lineup is a must for young teams which lack talent. Finding diamonds in the rough can be the difference between a three-year or a five-year rebuilding plan. Fans will wonder though, why Cliff Avril and Aaron Brown were deactivated for their play when so many other players, older players, were active in a loss.