ALLEN PARK -- In the NFL draft last year, the Lions traded into the first round to get a second high choice and used it to take running back Kevin Jones.
When he finally got healthy as a rookie, he took over the starting job, gained 99 yards or more in five of the last seven games and finished with 1,133 yards and five touchdowns.
By all accounts, from president Matt Millen through coach Steve Mariucci and the players, the Lions believed had a player of budding marquee value and promising big-play ability.
Some of them apparently still feel that way, but in Mariucci's game planning, Jones has become just one of the backs being used in a three-man rotation at the tailback position, sharing the job with Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner.
Jones admittedly got off to a slow start, in part because of his offensive line's shortcomings in run-blocking and in part because he wasn't making something out of nothing as he had done frequently in his rookie season.
After the first eight games, Jones had 381 yards and was averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. In the ninth game, however, he got started with a 36-yard run (his longest of the season) and seemed to be on his way to getting untracked with his first 100-yard game.
But Jones barely touched the ball beginning late in the third quarter, and finished with 81 yards on 14 rushing attempts. Mariucci decided it was more important to get carries for Bryson and Pinner.
And that, apparently, is the way it will be for the foreseeable future.
"Let's say it's your nickel package, because that's what we're really talking about," Mariucci said. "Because Shawn Bryson is our single-back starter in three wides or four wides. Why is that? Because he's the best one we've got at it."
Bryson admittedly is the best back in pass protection and has played well in both of the last two seasons, carrying the ball, catching the ball and even filling it for Cory Schlesinger at fullback.
But there are other factors as well, according to Mariucci.
"Just let the other guys play, because we're confident also in Artose Pinner and Shawn Bryson," he said. "What's pre-planned is that those other guys are going to have some snaps in the game so we make sure that happens."
At times last year, Jones had 25, 26 and as many as 33 carries in a game. This year he has carried the ball 20 or more times in just three of the first nine games.
He might be the Lions' most dangerous big-play back, but any damage he's
going to do on opposing defenses will have to be done in 15 or 16 carries.
- QB Jeff Garcia is still the Lions' No. 1 quarterback but it remains uncertain when he will be able to practice and play again. Garcia missed the first five games of the season with a broken left fibula and took so much physical abuse in the two games he played that he has had to sit out the last two games. It appears unlikely he will be ready to practice full-time yet this week or play Sunday at Dallas.
- MLB Earl Holmes, arguably the Lions' most consistent player this season, is expected to miss the game Sunday at Dallas because of a grade 2 sprain of his MCL. Coach Steve Mariucci said Holmes will be on a week-to-week basis but should be back relatively soon.
- SLB Boss Bailey suffered a sprained right ankle in the victory over Arizona on Sunday. Although X-rays showed no broken bones, coach Steve Mariucci sounded doubtful about whether Bailey would be able to practice or play Sunday in the Lions' game at Dallas.
- WLB James Davis was the third of the Lions' three starting LBs to be injured in the Sunday win against Arizona, but his injury (sprained hand) is not expected to keep him out of the game next Sunday at Dallas.
- WR Mike Williams sat out the Lions' game against Arizona with a foot injury. The Lions are hoping he will be able to return to full-time work in practice and be ready for the game Sunday at Dallas.
- CB Stanley Wilson has a grade 3 shoulder sprain. He played through it for most of the last game against Arizona, but it remains uncertain if he will be able to practice this week and play Sunday at Dallas. Wilson was forced into nickel back duty because of injuries to Dre' Bly, Fernando Bryant and Andre Goodman.
- CB Dre' Bly is getting eager to get back into the Lions' lineup after missing three games recovering from wrist surgery. Bly practiced with the scout team last week wearing a cast on his right wrist and will see a specialist next week to determine if he can play against Atlanta on Thanksgiving.
- QB Joey Harrington is coming off one of the best games of his career (22 of 32, 231 yards and 3 TDs) but he won't start Sunday at Dallas if Jeff Garcia is healthy enough to play. Garcia sounds pessimistic about his chances of practicing this week, however, so Harrington might get a third consecutive start.
- RB Kevin Jones is coming off his most impressive game of the season (81 yards on 14 carries against Arizona) but Lions coach Steve Mariucci indicated Jones will continue sharing the carries with backups Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner against Dallas on Sunday.
- RB Shawn Bryson is listed as the backup RB, but he will continue to get nearly as much playing time as Lions starter Kevin Jones. Bryson is the best RB in pass protection and the most polished receiver, which earns him regular turns in the backfield from coach Steve Mariucci.
- WR Charles Rogers got just one reception for 4 yards but was on the field for more than 30 plays in his return after missing five games, four on an NFL-imposed drug suspension. Rogers apparently will have to earn back his starting job at split end and additional reps by hard work on the practice field.
- WR Roy Williams is coming off his best game of the season (seven catches for 117 yards, 3 TDs) but still is not 100 percent recovered from the quadriceps injury that kept him out of the Lions' lineup for all except three plays in four games. Coach Steve Mariucci said Williams still lacks the quickness and explosion he had before the injury.
- WR Scottie Vines, who was the Lions' most productive receiver when they were playing without Roy Williams, Kevin Johnson and Charles Rogers, is battling a calf injury and will probably be rested during practices early in the week. It appears likely he will be available for the game at Dallas, however.
- TE Marcus Pollard leads Lions receivers in both receptions (25) and receiving yards (328). Pollard has the longest pass play of the season (86 yards) and is second to WR Roy Williams in touchdown catches with two. Williams has four.
- PK Jason Hanson has 50 points in nine games for the low-scoring Lions. Hanson has missed four field goals in 17 attempts this season. His misses have come from 47, 46 and 51 yards. He also had a 47-yard attempt blocked.
- DT Dan Wilkinson has been playing at a Pro Bowl level, according to Lions coach Steve Mariucci. Wilkinson had a safety in the 29-21 victory over Arizona on Sunday, when he tackled the Cardinals fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo in the end zone.