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Best's versatility a strength in Lions' attack

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Posted Oct. 15, 2011 @ 3:11 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

In a pass-first offense, Lions RB Jahvid Best has a varied and important role.

Best rushed for a career-high 163 yards on just 12 carries in the Lions' Week Five win vs. Chicago, a performance highlighted by an 88-yard third-quarter TD run. On the play, Best started right, quickly cut through a gaping hole in the middle and ran away from the Chicago defense. Later, he added rushes of 43 and 15 yards to set up a field goal for Detroit's final points in a 24-13 win.

Though his excellent speed is no secret, Best's 88- and 43-yard sprints against Chicago were his first two rushes of more than 20 yards this season.

"Our run game is obviously a complement to our pass game," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after the victory. "I think that we're committed to the run, but we also needed some explosive runs — it's where we were lacking."

Even if Best is being held in check as a rusher, he adds significant value as a pass catcher. He ranks third on the club in targets (32), receptions (21) and receiving yards (214). Best's 60-yard gain on a screen pass at Minnesota was a key moment in the Lions' comeback victory vs. the Vikings in Week Three. Best has yet to be held to fewer than 70 combined rushing-receiving yards this season, and he's exceeded 100 total yards three times.

A personnel man familiar with the 5-10, 199-pound Best told PFW that the second-year back's vision was one of his strengths. Of note: On Best's 88-yard run vs. the Bears, it appeared as if he could have continued on to the right for a nice gain, but the move to the middle sent him on his way to the longest rush of his NFL career.

Best also has "some power about him," the evaluator said. "If you arm-tackle him, he can run through that."

Such displays of power have to be regarded as a nice bonus, not Best's primary function. The Lions had hoped rookie Mikel Leshoure would provide a physical complement to Best, but he suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury during training camp. Ex-Redskins RB Keiland Williams (5-11, 230) gives Detroit a sturdy inside runner off the bench. But the versatile Best gets the majority of the carries and pass-catching opportunities among the backs.

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