Harrison was the best free-agent running back option available in a dwindling class. Harrison is a sixth year, 5’9”, 205 pound veteran who was a fifth round pick in 2006 by the Cleveland Browns.
Harrison is best known for a game in 2009 at Kansas City where he ran for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Harrison’s performance eclipsed the Browns single game rushing record held by Jim Brown and is the third best rushing performance in NFL history.
Initial impressions of Harrison leads one to the conclusion that his size doesn’t make him a proper compliment to Lions RB Jahvid Best. Wouldn’t the Lions be better served by a bigger back who can hit hard between the tackles?
The answer is both yes, and no.
Yes, it’s true that the Smurfish Harrison lacks the physical qualities needed to take on defensive tackles and linebackers in the gap. Harrison has never played an entire 16 game season due to a series of minor injuries (calf and hamstring).
Conversely, the ironic thing about Harrison’s body of work is that he’s made the biggest impact rushing between the tackles. His 2009 campaign with the Browns appeared to cement him into a featured back role.
In a curious fashion, the Browns traded for RB Peyton Hillis in 2010 and drafted RB Montario Hardesty. Harrison, the fantasy football darling of 2009, was shunted into irrelevance.
Harrison was a restricted free agent in 2010 but rarely got a carry for the Browns. Harrison was relegated to playing special teams.
Harrison was acquired in a trade by the Eagles, who sent RB Mike Bell to the Browns. Harrison was playing in a backup role to LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia where he had only 71 carries for 330 yards (4.6 avg) and one TD.
So, what makes Harrison so attractive? First, Harrison is an elusive speed back who flourishes inside. He has proved that he can score from anywhere on the field. Harrison is a home run threat who must be accounted for.
Second, Harrison is a perfect fit for Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s scheme—a scheme in which running backs play a prolific role in the passing game.
Third, Harrison will take on a lot of the first, and second down load off of Jahvid Best. Best is most effective when getting no more than 15 carries a game. Sharing the load will benefit both backs.
Finally, Harrison will be more than a one-year “rental.” Harrison will be a prominent weapon in the Lions offense if, and when Mikel LeShoure returns in 2012.
While Harrison doesn’t appear to be the complete change of pace back that Lions fans covet, he offers a nice upgrade to the unit after the untimely loss of rookie sensation Mikel LeShoure.
The Lions offense has a shiny new weapon that puts the team back on track for a playoff run.
Mike Sudds is a syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.