2011 Detroit Lions: Who Is Winning the Battle of the Running Backs?

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2011 Detroit Lions: Who Is Winning the Battle of the Running Backs?
DETROIT - AUGUST 27 (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

This article follows last week's question of who would end up as the Detroit Lions' third running back.

According to the poll included in that article, the player that fans favored prior to the New England game was Jerome Harrison (who received 44.4 percent of the votes, while Brown received 36.5 percent and the rest went to "neither"). 

Now that we have one more preseason game completed, we can make even more informed comparisons.

With roster only cuts reducing teams to 80 from 90 on Tuesday, I don't expect the running back situation to be resolved by that time. Head Coach Jim Schwartz will likely give the running backs one final preseason game to showcase their talents.

Even though the Roar Report stated last week that the third running back spot was between Jerome Harrison and Aaron Brown, it appeared that Ian Johnson could also be in the mix. All three were given time on the field against the New England Patriots at the weekend.

Of course, you always have to consider which defensive lines they were running against. It's always more impressive when they get a good burst with the first string players on the field, as opposed to the third string.

If you look at the statistics from the game, you'll find that Ian Johnson had the best rushing numbers (11 carries for 32 yards). However, he didn't play against the first line.

Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan rotated Brown and Harrison in the first and second quarters of the game.

Brown had the slight edge as a rusher (9 carries for 30 yards to Harrison's 8 carries for 24 yards) while Harrison squeaked three more yards out to best Brown in receptions (Harrison was 3 for 51, Brown was 4 for 48). Brown also turned one of his receptions into a touchdown for Detroit.

Both men showed that they could churn their legs for extra yards and neither dropped a pass nor fumbled the ball.

While Harrison is billed as more of a power rusher and Brown as someone who can break out with speed, there wasn't much difference between the two regarding effectiveness. They helped get some needed yards on the ground, but neither were break out runners. 

Needless to say, Jahvid Best is still the first running back. If he can heal his hand up in time, Maurice Morris will be second.

However, what I liked seeing the most out of the third preseason game was the use of Stefan Logan in certain offensive packages.

What this gives the Lions is a core of very fast running backs. The team still has no answer to the quest for a power back to take over what rookie Mikel Leshoure was drafted to bring to the running game, but it doesn't mean that they don't have talented weapons.

If the Lions had to choose today who they would keep on the roster, it would likely be Best, Morris and Brown. It's not too late for Harrison to show why he should be considered, but he is running out of time. Brown has the advantage of knowing the playbook and being with the Lions for what would be his third season this year.

If Morris is not able to get back on the field early in the regular season, Schwartz may find it necessary to keep Harrison.

It all comes down to this final preseason game.

Of course, because Schwartz tends to like to keep reporters and analysts on their toes, he may bring in another veteran running back, which would mean that all of our thoughts up until that point would be for naught.

That's just one of the things I love about this team.

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