The Lions moved to bolster their depth as they entered the second half of the season. They brought back RB Kevin Smith, once their featured back, and they also added OG Leonard Davis, once regarded as one of the game's better players at his position.
Smith was something of a surprise signing, to hear it from head coach Jim Schwartz. "Honestly, in his case, we hadn't really planned on signing anybody, but Kevin looked so good," Schwartz said. "Ran well, moved well, (he) was in great shape and, you know, has been a productive player for us when he's been on the field. And, I think, one of the silver linings in this was it gave his body time to heal."
Just 24, Smith suffered knee, shoulder and thumb injuries in his first three seasons with Detroit. The Lions did not tender him as a restricted free agent. Though the Lions have had health concerns at running back since training camp, when RB Mikel Leshoure's season-ending Achilles injury forced Detroit to search for veteran tailback depth, four other notable veteran backs — Mike Bell, Jerome Harrison, Keiland Williams and Eldra Buckley — were signed before the Lions turned back to Smith.
Smith replaces Buckley, who was let go, as the fourth running back on the depth chart behind Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris and Williams. With Best expected to miss his third straight game Sunday with a concussion, Smith gives the Lions another experienced option at tailback, one well-versed in the offense.
The 33-year-old Davis, whom the Cowboys released in July, has started 155 career games.
"Leonard Davis is a guy that we've been looking at for a while, and you know, at this point in the season, experienced players you know that have been in a lot of different situations, that you can plug in, are very important to have," Schwartz said.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 355 pounds, Davis' bulk alone can make him a formidable blocker for some opponents. Word is, he also appears to be moving well, a positive sign. Consistency will be the key for Davis, said one person familiar with his play in recent years.
One personnel man from another club, speaking on condition of anonymity, believes Davis and Smith are likely to be role players.
"At this point, (you are) hoping they can muster enough to give (you) some quality reps, albeit on a limited basis," he said.