Martin Mayhew on the lookout for a running back with lightning speed

Posted Jan 10, 2013

Turning a safe pass into a big gain was something the Detroit Lions sorely missed in Jahvid Best's absence throughout the 2012 season.

The number of explosive running plays for the Detroit Lions during the course of the entire 2012 season can be counted on one hand.

Detroit, we have a problem.

The Lions had a grand total of four runs of 20-plus yards this season – three by running back Joique Bell and one by receiver Mike Thomas.

That was tied with San Diego for the fewest in the league. For comparisons sake, the Vikings led the NFL with 33.

A lot of that can be attributed to big-play threat Jahvid Best never being able to get activated because of a concussion.

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew admitted his biggest regret following this past 4-12 season was relying too much on Best being cleared for physical contact.

Don't expect him to make the same mistake twice.

"We need that shifty back that can come in and be a change-of-pace guy and catch passes out of the backfield," Mayhew said.

"A guy that can run routes and get one-on-one and beat a linebacker. That's what Jahvid gave us, a guy with some juice and some elusiveness."

Mayhew said he'll be on the lookout for that guy this offseason, either via the draft or free agency.

"Somebody that's good at that is hard to find," he said. "But there are guys out there who can do it."

The Lions missed Best in 2012, particularly in their pass game and in the red zone. He had 58 catches as a rookie in 2011 and had 27 through 5 1/2 games last year before suffering a concussion in Week 6, preventing him from returning to the playing field.

All 85 of Best's career receptions have come within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

He has six career receptions of more than 25 yards, which means Best was very good at taking a safe pass and turning it into a big play. That's something the Lions' offense lacked all year.

When the Lions had to have a big play this year it was in the hands of quarterback Matthew Stafford to push the ball down the field. The Lions led the league with 67 plays in the passing game of 20-plus yards.

"We've got a couple of young backs that we like – Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell," Mayhew said. "They have kind of a similar style. Both of them are bigger guys and more physical and more downhill guys."

Mayhew wants the lightning to go along with Leshoure and Bell's thunder, and rest assured he'll get it one way or another.