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Kevin Smith’s Key to Success

It’s no secret that the Detroit Lions’ running game is struggling and there are three main factors contributing to the struggles. The Lions’ have had injury and ineffectiveness plague the guards this season. They started five players at both guard positions and their best guard, Stephen Peterman, is out for the year. Secondly, the Lions have fallen behind quickly in most of their road games forcing them to abandon the run. Lastly and potentially most importantly, Kevin Smith has not adapted to the switch away from the zone blocking scheme as well as the coaching staff had hoped.

A running back’s success in the zone blocking scheme is predicated on patience and vision. The offensive line blocks players that come into their zone and the running back reads the holes created by the lineman. The running back “tip toes” along until he decides which hole to hit and then accelerates upfield. The running back has to be patient because the offensive lineman are also trying to create lanes on the backside of the play for the running back to cut back. Kevin Smith ran in a zone blocking scheme in college and last year with the Lions. This year, the Lions still run some zone blocking plays, but they are not a zone blocking offense anymore.

The Lions run a more traditional type of offense where the play call tells the running back which hole to run through rather than the running back reading the line and deciding where to go. Patience is replaced by acceleration and vision doesn’t become important until the running back gets through the hole. The running back has to hit the hole with conviction and keep his legs driving until he breaks through to the second level of the defense. This is where Kevin Smith’s adaptation is lacking.

Kevin Smith frequently takes the hand off, “tip toes” to the hole and stops his feet looking for a cutback lane. This is how he has been coached to run for the last four years of his career. Obviously, the Lions’ offensive line hasn’t been opening big holes for Smith with all the issues at guard, but he has to attack the line of scrimmage when he takes the hand off. Smith has been getting tripped up and arm tackled at an alarming rate this season, and it’s because he isn’t attacking the hole and building up a head of steam. He is frequently moving slower than the defender tackling him by the time he gets hit. Once he gets into the open field he can stop and start and look for cutbacks, but until he hits the second level of the defense he needs to just power ahead.

Kevin Smith may or may not be the future at running back for the Lions, but his chances of being “the guy” will increase when he overcomes the zone blocking instincts that he has developed.

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4 Responses to “Kevin Smith’s Key to Success”

  1. mike from orlando says:

    I’ve been a fan of UCF football since 2001, and have watched Kevin Smith for his 3 years in college and 2 years for the Lions. This is a very good assessment. KS need to add weight without loosing quickness and speed and get tough. He needs to play at 220-222 lbs and i’m surprised about how much lighter that he came into camp this year as opposed to last year. I was expecting the opposite. He’s is at his top speed and I really don’t feel that after a couple of years of trying to improve his speed that there is going to be a major change there. It is what it is. He needs to put his head down and punish the defenders and develop a “bull forward” mentality. He is an above average to very good receiver and an above average blocker, but he does not have that burst and plays slower than his 40 yard speed. I do feel that he can run harder and that burst is more of a mental attitude when accelerating than it is a gift. KS needs to continue the same mentality that he had in the Bengals game. He needs to contnue to hit the hole hard, have an “i’m not going to go down with the first hit attitude”, and freeze defenders, then make quick cuts followed by a full speed sprint like he did on a pass play and a run to the left last sunday. He needs to run hard like those 2 plays on every down. All this being said, it is very difficult to evaluate any back being on a team with so few offensive weapons and such poor line play. Look at the other backs on this team the past 2 years. Have they really done anything spectacular either with their limited carries running behind this poor line. The Lions consistantly have one of the worst offensive lines n the league as proven by the poor pass protection. This has been even amplified more by injuries. There are players starting on that line that may not even be on other teams rosters. All this being said, KS is not Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson, but then again who is. He can be a good back in this league. One who can help a team make the playoffs as 1st or second back and I think that any Lion fan would take that right now. I don’t think that KS has the potential to be a 1500+ yard runner, but I think 1100-1400 yards a year is a very reasonable prediction. By the way.., I think that if you put a few of the top backs in the league on the Lions, you would be surprised about how very ordinary that they would look all of a sudden and how their running style and attitudes would change. Have your guards get “blown up” for a few times a game and watch the daily wear and tear causing nagging injuries mount. How many times have we seen a negative 2 or more yard loss this year? Those runs are almost never the fault of a back.

  2. The Detroit Lions running game will go nowhere against the Ravens today. Don’t mean to rub it in but be prepared to swallow another loss.

    Baltimore Ravens Chat

  3. […] dramatically as injuries marred his season. I misinterpreted the drop-off as getting used to a more power based running scheme instead of the zone scheme, but it had far more to do with two injured shoulders and culminated with the more serious knee […]

  4. […] dramatically as injuries marred his season. I misinterpreted the drop-off as getting used to a more power based running scheme instead of the zone scheme, but it had far more to do with two injured shoulders and culminated with the more serious knee […]

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