PAWS FOR THOUGHT: What do Lions do without Stewart

The worst part of Detroit's 22-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills Thursday night was the loss of running back James Stewart with a separated shoulder. What will the Lions do without Stewart? Lions' insider Mike Fowler examines the solutions, including the reemergence of Duce Staley rumors. Also, what Lions' backup is most capable of replacing Stewart? You might be surprised. More inside.

(DETROIT) - The worst part of Detroit's 22-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills Thursday night at Ralph Wilson stadium in a sloppy contest, was the loss of running back James Stewart with a separated shoulder.

The seven-year veteran was to undergo and MRI Friday morning to determine the severity of the injury, although some reports have stated Stewart could miss up to four weeks. Already, some are second guessing head coach Steve Mariucci for leaving a player the Lions couldn't afford to lose in the lineup for so long, and for calling so many tough inside runs in a meaningless preseason game.

Still, the situation is what it is and the Lions will have to make do. What are the options available to the team?

1. Scour the waiver wire
With an undrafted rookie free agent (Avon Cobourne) running as the No. 1 backup, a poor performing free agent with only a few reps as the No. 2 backup (Shawn Bryson) and an NFL Europe refugee who wasn't expected to make the team as your choice (Autry Denson), some suspect the Lions will be scouring the waiver wire for ANY serviceable back. I doubt it. While the Lions will always look for a good player who comes free, I doubt that they will go the serviceable route. They'll be looking for an upgrade or they'll pass.

2. Duce Staley rumors heat up
After a rusty performance (3 carries, 4 yards) last night by Staley, and with two solid runners (Corel Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook) already on the Philadelphia roster, this one makes sense. If Detroit were to offer, say a third round pick, maybe even a fourth rounder, they could likely pry Staley free. The deal works for Philly because there is nothing to accelerate into their salary cap because Staley is in the final year of his contract and no longer figures into their plans. Detroit would just have to make room for the $3.8 million salary that Staley makes. If they don't want to keep him on the roster past 2003, they can take their time with contract talks. I began receiving e-mails on this one from members of the Philadelphia media at halftime of the Lions/Bills contest.

3. Go with the status quo
While this would be the easiest scenario, I expect Detroit to go another route. Who would start? Avon Cobourne? Asking an undrafted rookie free agent to be your starter in the NFL is asking for trouble. Shawn Bryson? Sure Bryson could line up in that position, but he's done nothing to show he can handle it. The best bet might be to run Autry Denson as the starter. Denson runs tough and hard in the interior with good speed to the corner. He can catch and he's a competitor. Denson led the Lions in rushing (8 carries for 35 yards) and receiving (6 catches for 40 yards) in Thursday's loss. Cobourne is best served coming off the bench as a change of pace runner.

4. This is the end of James Stewart in Detroit.
It could very well end up this way. If Stewart is put on PUP, he might find his job gone in six weeks. At that time, Artose Pinner may have found his way into the lineup and other players may have proven they can handle the job. At any rate, Stewart wasn't in the Lions plans past 2003 anyway. Detroit felt Pinner was starting material and will likely use a high draft pick on a running back in the 2004 draft. It would be a shame if it ends this way in Detroit for the classy Stewart who was never too busy to take questions and assist in the community.

Brian Williams is out again with an injury:
It's time for the team to cut ties with Williams who has been injured so much since becoming a Lion, he's hardly taken the field. Detroit has a strong linebacking corps including some younger players. With Earl Holmes, Donte Curry and Jeff Gooch providing veteran leadership it's time to move on.

Blue Adams:
Adams deserves a spot on the roster. Despite getting beat, Adams (1 interception, 1 pass defensed) gets his hands on balls and will get better with tutoring. Unless a big time DB gets released, Adams has shown he has enough upside to stick.

Toby Golliday:
If Detroit can get him through waivers, Golliday is an impressive player who would look good on Detroit's practice squad. With five tackles last night and a pretty good preseason, Golliday is worth developing.

Notes: The Detroit Lions released the following players today: WR Pierre Brown, DT Toby Golliday and WR T.C. Taylor. The roster must be axed to 53 by Sunday at 4:00 p.m. (EST). It is currently at 67.

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