Neck and Neck: Detroit's Backup RB's

Ask Detroit Lions Head Coach Marty Morhinweg what he looks for in a backup Running back, and you might expect a long, drawn out answer about "intangibles," and "leadership." But Morhinweg says it comes down to one thing. Production.

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Ask Detroit Lions Head Coach Marty Morhinweg what he looks for in a backup Running back, and you might expect a long, drawn out answer about "intangibles," and "leadership." But Morhinweg says it comes down to one thing.

"Production." Marty says. Simply put, but not simply done.

The backup running back job for the Lions is heating up. The leader out of camp was Sedrick Irvin, but Lamont Warren proved that the race isn't over yet, with a strong showing in an Indianapolis preseason game. Warren looks to be the leader right now, but it's much to early to declare a winner.

"You don't even think about it," says Warren. "You continue to worry about yourself and continue to try to get better. You start playing the numbers game, you always get messed in the end."

However, more often than not, coaches play the numbers game, and Lamont Warren had pretty good numbers versus Indy in that preseason game, with 5 rushing attempts, 45 yards, 3 receptions and 16 recieving yards. Despite those numbers, which happened to be better than all Lions' running backs that game, Lamont thinks differently about what he did.

"There's still a lot of room for improvement," Warren says. "I'm very critical of myself. I thought my game was terrible; you have your little nicks and your bruises, and your fatigue setting in. It didn't look good to me personally, but that's something I can work with."

Warren doesn't have the time to improve that much, though, he's got tough competition with three other running backs looking to overtake him in the always fluctuating depth chart.

"Almost always, those things work themselves out," Marty Morhinweg says. "Right through the practices and preseason games, and it becomes fairly clear who's the guy."

Two of the four running backs vying for the backup slot didn't even play last year. Warren, who was out while rehabilitating a left achilles injury, reflects on his off season.

"Actually, it wasn't that bad. Your body gets to heal, you got to do things at your own pace as far as working out...Actually, that year was just what my body needed."

He could prove to be what the Lions need, too. But Rueben Droughns is trying to prove he is, in fact, that guy. He was the other injured running back last year, however he was a rookie at the time, and remains a huge question mark to everyone outside of practice. He is said to be the fastest out of the bunch, but has trouble catching the ball. Marty Morhinweg says he is catching the ball better in practice though, giving Droughns life in the race.

"Rueben played well," Morhinweg said. "He caught the ball. He runs hard."

Sedrick Irvin has never had trouble catching the ball, but running is a different story. He simply doesn't have the speed to make the finesse moves he makes so much, and is more suited as a power runner, but is at a disposition to do so at 5-11, 226.

"Sedrick is right in the ballpark as far as our running back situation. He knows expectations are high for him. I would expect him to do some tremendous things in the preseason games," Marty Morhinweg says of Irvin.

As if there weren't enough question marks surrounding the running backs, Amp Lee presents another one. He hasn't even played a preseason game yet, out with a hamstring injury. He is expected to play in the next game against Pittsburgh, though.

On paper, Amp Lee has everything to be the leading candidate for backup halfback. He catches the ball exceptionally well, with fluidity and smoothness. He also has enough speed to run the ball effectively. He has 9 years experience, with 116 game appearances, with 14 of those games being starts. He's even said to be among the best third down backs in the league.

"I want to see broken tackles," Morhinweg says. "I want to see people making them miss. You've got to have a back that makes them miss in one of two ways. You either run right over them, or you shake and bake and make them miss in that fashion. You have to gain yards, one on one, in the open field."

There's no telling who will win the battles of the backup running backs, but with time dwindling down to the regular season, time will only tell. Who will be the odd man out? That is for them to decide, besides, all Marty Morhinweg wants is production. If only it were that easy.

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