The NFL preseason serves as an appetizer for fans who anxiously await the regular season. The opportunity to see their favorite players take the field after a seven or eight month hiatus is a welcomed sight. Although the excitement surrounding the stars is the main draw to fans, the preseason is much more.
The four exhibition games slated for the Detroit Lions will be utilized by the coaching staff and front office to evaluate their talent in actual game situations – as they trim the roster down to 53.
The young players have an opportunity to prove their value and the ‘on-the-bubble’ veterans will have the chance to show their talent, both attempting to solidify a roster spot.
One player vying for a spot is sixth-round draft selection running back Aaron Brown.
Brown, 23, left Texas Christian University with many questioning what type of role he’d have in the NFL. Some predicted a transition from running back to receiver, saying he lacks the power and lower-body strength to be effective out of the backfield. Some expected him to only contribute on special teams, others didn’t expect much after a disappointing junior and senior season, where injury problems also raised concerns.
Lions rookie Aaron Brown runs into the end zone following a 32-yard touchdown scamper.
On Saturday afternoon, in the Lions’ first preseason game, Brown showed he should be considered a playmaker.
Brown scored two times during the Lions’ come-from-behind victory, touching the ball eight times (six carries, two receptions) for 98 total years (not including two kickoff returns).
Brown was satisfied with being able to contribute to a Lions’ victory.
“We'd been fighting the whole game,” said Brown after the victory. “That showed the character and tenacity that this football team has. Coach Schwartz, he just instills it in us to have that drive and have that fight throughout the whole game, not just every other series.”
The same ‘character and tenacity’ that Brown noticed in his teammates will need to be consistent within him as he attempts to make the roster.
The Lions figure to have three running backs already penciled in; Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris and Terrelle Smith (full back). With Aveion Cason, Allen Ervin and Jerome Felton (full back) also fighting to make the squad, a roster spot will not be handed to Brown.
Brown’s versatility will surely help his cause, as the speedy back is also a capable receiver and kick/punt returner. However, Brown’s inexperience in pass protection and sub-par running strength will hinder his ability to be more than a situational player.
Brown understands that his physical ability isn’t going to be enough.
“Physically we're all capable of doing this game,” said Brown. “It's just the mental part - that's the biggest key these last two weeks, just being there on the mental aspect. I think most of it is mental. The physical part I've been doing all my life, it's just how to separate myself from every other player."
With one solid performance under his belt, it appears Brown has the inside track to secure one of the Lions’ final roster spots. However, Brown will need to develop more of his game – other than his terrific speed and shiftiness – if he wants to separate himself from the pack.