Lions Name Rookie RB Smith Starter
Kevin Smith (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Kevin Smith (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Special to RoarReport.com
Posted Nov 14, 2008
scout.com


The Lions are ready to let rookie running back Kevin Smith carry the load.

The Lions are ready to let rookie running back Kevin Smith carry the load.

"Oh, yeah," coach Rod Marinelli said, looking ahead to Sunday's game at Carolina. "We're putting that pack on his back. Let's go. He likes that."

Does he ever.

Smith, a third-round pick out of Central Florida, set a major college record with 450 carries last year. He racked up 2,567 rushing yards -- just 62 yards shy of the record set by Lions great Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State -- and 29 touchdowns.

"That's what I'm known for," Smith said. "I heat up as I go along. I would love to be able to do some great things with less carries. That would be a mean average. But it's just who I am, the type of running back I am."

Smith didn't get many carries the first half of the season. He started the first four games. Veteran Rudi Johnson started the next four. Within games, they alternated to varying degrees. The Lions often fell behind badly and abandoned the run.

"We tried to do some different things, but it just wasn't working," Johnson said. "I couldn't really get in a rhythm, and he couldn't really get in a rhythm. So the coaches made the decision, and that's cool."

Smith got a career-high 23 carries in Sunday's 38-14 loss to Jacksonville and gained a career-high 96 rushing yards, plus a touchdown.

"I think they were like, 'OK, we'll give this guy an opportunity, see what he does if we give him a workload. Can he handle it? Will he be healthy enough?'" Smith said. "I just try to do it with my actions. So hopefully I was able to show enough to be able to do some things that they liked."

To be sure, Smith had eight carries for 52 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter, when the Lions were trailing badly and the Jaguars were sitting back in Cover-2.

But left tackle Jeff Backus was still impressed with the way he ran.

"When he was getting hit, he wasn't getting pushed backwards," Backus said. "He was moving piles, and he was falling forward, and he was hitting the holes hard. He was running fast. I think he kind of fed off the opportunity."

The Lions hope someday Smith will run well in the fourth quarter so they can close out a victory.

"In my mind, fourth quarter, people are wearing down, people are panicking, whether they're trying to get the ball back, I'm trying to go the distance," Smith said. "Hopefully somewhere in my career I'll get back to that, but right now I'm just trying to get better and help the offense out.

"I feel confident. With these games left, I'm taking advantage. I'm going to get better. I'm going to go into the offseason full-speed ahead. With these last games, I'm trying to get a 'W' every game and I'm trying to get better as a player."

Player Notes:

  • DE Jared DeVries (hand) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday and likely will not play Sunday.
  • WR Mike Furrey (concussion) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday but likely will play Sunday.
  • QB Dan Orlovsky (hand) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. He has decided to put off surgery and see how his broken thumb heals over the next two weeks.
  • C Dominic Raiola (hand) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday and likely will not play Sunday.
  • DT Cory Redding (groin) did not practice Wednesday but was limited Thursday. He likely will play Sunday.
  • LB Ernie Sims (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday but likely will play Sunday.
  • S Dwight Smith (foot) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. He has missed three games and will not comment on his health. He has seen a specialist. His status is unclear.
  • CB Keith Smith (groin) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. His status is unclear.
  • DE Dewayne White (calf) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday and likely will not play Sunday.
  • LT Jeff Backus (quad) was limited Wednesday but practiced fully Thursday. He likely will play Sunday.
  • DT Shaun Cody (ankle) was limited Wednesday but practiced fully Thursday. He likely will play Sunday.
  • DT Chuck Darby (calf) was limited Wednesday but practiced fully Thursday. He likely will play Sunday.
  • FB Jerome Felton (ankle) was limited Wednesday but practiced fully Thursday. He likely will play Sunday.
  • TE Casey Fitzsimmons (ribs) was limited Wednesday but practiced fully Thursday. He likely will play Sunday.
  • CB Brian Kelly (back) was limited Wednesday but practiced fully Thursday. He likely will play Sunday.
  • TE John Owens (hamstring) was limited Wednesday and Thursday but likely will play Sunday.


Related Stories
Lions Notebook: Rookie Smith Cashing In
 -by RoarDigest.com  Nov 19, 2008
Positional Analysis: Detroit Lions
 -by BattleRedNation.com  Oct 15, 2008
NFL Late Games Preview: Players to Watch
 -by ScoutNFLNetwork.com  Sep 21, 2008

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