Hustle and Flow: Why Running Back by Committee Will Flourish in Detroit

Kyle GibbonsAnalyst IIIMay 22, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 26:  Running back Jahvid Best #44 of the Detroit Lions is pursued by Kevin Williams #93 of the Minnesota Vikings during the first half at Mall of America Field on September 26, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Lions 24-10.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The running back by committee phenomenon has enjoyed great success throughout the NFL in recent history. From DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart to Ronnie Brown to Ricky Williams, if utilized correctly, it can be a volatile addition to a team’s offensive backfield.

Successful teams employing the running back by committee strategy utilize their quick backs in the open field and spell those backs with potent power backs near the goal line.

Jim Schwartz has covertly fashioned the Hustle and Flow experiment with Best and Leshoure to closely resemble the “Smash and Dash” tandem of Lendale White and Chris Johnson in 2009. Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure have the potential to absolutely explode in 2011.

It will be a completely different sideline in Detroit come the first week of the 2011 regular season. That switch you’ll see in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s hand, that’s a detonator, and once he sets that mother off, sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

First-Team All Big-Ten back Mikel Leshoure finished his three-year collegiate career at the University of Illinois without a single fumble in 424 carries. He is an explosive power back with enough speed to hit the hole and make opponents miss in the secondary.

Leshoure’s power is the perfect compliment to Best’s speed. Prior to a debilitating dual turf toe injury, Best was well on his way to fulfilling Detroit fan’s insatiable hunger for their first premier running back since the likes of Barry Sanders. In his first two regular season games alone, Best electrified, compiling 268 all purpose yards and scoring five touchdowns. The Leshoure-Best combination is poised for great success.

You can say that Best and Leshoure will get swallowed behind a porous offensive line. You can critique the Lions 2011 draft class, pointing out that predominately Detroit failed to address their greatest need, being the offensive front.

Detroit’s biggest concern on the offensive front isn’t the ability or inability to perform. Detroit’s “greatest” concern on the offensive front is the inability to stay healthy.

Martin Mayhew defends his big men by stating, "I read one article, I said, 'This guy doesn't know what he's talking about.’ Then I read another one, and I thought, 'Wait a minute, they're all saying the same thing. They're all saying that's an issue for us, that that's a problem for us.' I think they make a connection between the injuries and the ability to protect the quarterback, when that may not be a correct assumption. Sometimes injuries just happen, and you just get a bunch of things at the same time. Anytime you’re not the best at something you can improve.”

Unlike the decipherable “Wildcat” formation made famous by Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, Best and Leshoure formations will be ever changing. Schwartz said each back's workload "might change from week to week. It might change due to injuries and player availability. It might change based on opponent."

An excellent strategy for an NFC North Division that showcases the tenacity of prolific defensemen Clay Matthews, Jared Allen, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher.