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“Running the Gauntlet”: The Recruits…continued

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In the last installment of “Running The Gauntlet” and our continuing look at the running back competition of Lions training camp, I spoke of “The Draft” and discussed it’s military application in comparison to football.

I described that it is how a squad replenishes and improves it’s squad of troops in time of need and talked of the Lions’ latest attempt to replenish and improve their own squad of running backs by drafting Aaron Brown out of TCU to try and help shore up depth at the position with youth and provide a more diversified skill set that can not only impact the rushing portion of the offense but add another asset and weapon to the passing arsenal as well as try to correct a deficiency in the return game.

The next goal of my mission was to continue “The Recruits” portion by discussing another rookie, whom was an un-drafted free agent named Antone Smith however, he didn’t even make it to training camp as he was cut on Tuesday along with CB Tra Battle and DE Rudolph Hardie after the Lions signed free agent corner back Will James as well as two other rookie “recruits”, LB Deandre Levy and OT Lydon Murtha as reported my Tom Kowalski over at mlive.com. Check out this link HERE for the full article…

But recruits come in many forms and one other back on the roster was one of the first players “recruited” as a veteran free agent in the off-season, Maurice Morris.

Morris is a 5’11, 216 pound eight year veteran who spent the first seven years of his career in Seattle as a backup for the Seahawks. Ironically, he may have become expendable when the Seahawks added former Lions running back, T.J. Duckett in free agency before last season.

Morris played in 13 games last season for the Seahawks and started six of them. He averaged 4.3 yards rushing which matches his career average and compiled 574 yards off 132 attempts. He also tallied 19 receptions for 136 yards and scored two touch downs. In his career, he has notched 2,612 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing while also catching the ball 74 times for 553 yards, averaging 7.5 yards a catch with four touchdowns.

One could argue he was more effective catching the ball out of the backfield than rushing although, his running stats are quite respectable for a career back-up and thus, gives him a very diversified skill set…much like the one the Lions were looking to add to their ranks.

His most prolific season receiving the ball came in 2007 when he secured 23 receptions for 213 yards, averaging an eye opening 9.3 yards per reception and 1 receiving touchdown. He was utilized by the offensive attack quite a bit in 07 as he also ran for a career best 628 yards off a second career best total of 140 attempts, he averaged 4.5 yards that season and scored 4 of his 5 career rushing touchdowns in that season alone.

In 2008, obviously the addition of Duckett took away some carries in the red zone and goal line situations which can point to Morris’ similar total of carries and yards in ’08 to ’07 but, lack of scoring any touchdowns on the ground last season. His receiving stats were also identical to the ’07 season as he caught 19 passes for 136 yards for a still respectable 7.2 yard average and scored one more touchdown in ’07 than he did in ’08.

Morris has also seen action as a returner although it came early in his career and he hasn’t contributed to the return game regularly since 2004. He was productive as a specialist though, tallying 2,843 yards off 129 kick returns for a 22 yard average. He scored only once, during his rookie season of 2002.

I believe his recent consistency and effectiveness in both running and receiving out of the backfield provide evidence as to why he was a target of the new Lions’ commanders and now he just needs to show in training camp that he can provide the same kind off offensive firepower to their arsenal and be a solid third down threat and reliable relief option to Kevin Smith, who should be penciled in as a first platoon squad member. Morris’ past experience in the return game may be invaluable as well.

Of course, as the Lions’ general, Jim Schwartz and the other leaders of the team have said, Lions “boot camp” will be full of competition and the purpose of this series is to look into and discuss the personnel files of each of the running backs whom are competing.

We have already talked of two recruits, a young “rook” whom will be trying his best to make a name for himself and claim a spot with the top dogs and a veteran recruit trying to find his place within new barracks and a company of new men. Their is other competition for rookie Aaron Brown and veteran recruit Maurice Morris besides one another though.

Recruits always strive to get up to speed with the men who have already been through “basic training” before. These men have been around. Humping and hoofing it through special training and on the field of battle for years, they have seen it all and then some.

Having a history with the squad, they are more familiar with their surroundings and therefore have a leg up on the new guys. They have had to fight their way uphill, out of holes, against all odds and survived. Survival has made them seasoned, tough, hard nosed members of the group. They are men that leaders feel they can rely on, even if they are new leaders.

A man currently on the Lions’ roster that many teams have relied on in the past to come in and fill a needed roll falls into this category. He has stepped up for Detroit many times in the past. I have given him the code name “water boy” as he is the guy whom has been around, refreshing the team whenever it is thirsty for a contributor to the running and return game.

He has always been there when the team needed him most, even if he was cut after camp. Although he hasn’t displayed many eye-opening campaigns…when the team needed an experienced and solid contributor, he answered the call.

That soldiers’ name is Aveion Cason and he will be the focus of the next installment in this in-depth look at the running back competition of Lions’ training camp that I will be calling “Running The Gauntlet”: The Enlisted!


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