Rookie RB Aaron Brown showing flashes -- but why he may be practice squad-bound

Friday, August 7, 2009

Practice attendees liked what they saw during 11-on-11 drills at Lions practice Thursday, when rookie RB Aaron Brown "sprinted up the middle, juked a defender and sprinted free for a long touchdown," Amelia Rayno reports at

Brown, a sixth-round draft pick out of TCU, has speed to impress, but says he's trying to fight a perception that all he can do is bounce it outside. "The one thing that he has is the raw skill that God only gives a select few -- he has good speed, good hips and he's a good receiver out of the backfield," running backs coach Sam Gash said.

That tends to indicate Brown could make it as a change-of-pace pass-catcher out of the backfield, a role Lions fans kept waiting and waiting for Brian Calhoun to take.

But a quote from the article by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan gives me a hint that Brown may be beaten out by perennial hanger-on Aveion Cason for the third RB spot behind Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris. (bolding mine)

"You see the speed -- that's the first thing you see that flashes," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.

"But he's gotta work on his game, both inside and outside the tackles in the run game. Just like all rookies, (he needs to) become a guy that is reliable in pass protection.

"And once you get there, then you can be that guy you utilize for the passing game and the running game trying to create plays. But he's a guy that shows up out here as far as pure speed. Its legitimate, and he's a guy that can take it to the house."

Ah yes, pass protection. Something the Lions have struggled with for years. And with virtually the same underperforming offensive line coming back this year, they'll most definitely need backs experienced at pass protecting to guard billion-dollar-baby Matthew Stafford (or as one blogger described Stafford and his contract to my amusement, "the gross domestic product of Guam.")

Even if you believe Daunte Culpepper will start most of the year, he's a veteran with a history of some serious injuries, who doesn't move as well as he used to. Yet more evidence that pass protection will be critical.

The Lions will have a choice for their third RB -- go with flash, receiving ability and big-play potential in Brown, or a more reliable pass blocker who can do enough of everything to always stick around in Cason. My guess is that they'll go with the latter and that Brown is practice squad bound.

If Brown wants to save himself a roster spot, he needs to wow coaches with holding off big defenders, too.

Talk about it in The Den!