Rookie Best shines in first 2 games for Lions

Jahvid Best caught a screen pass and turned up the field, then

paused ever so slightly. Instead of running into the back of one of

his blockers, the Detroit rookie waited for a lane to open, and

once he found one, he was gone for a 75-yard touchdown against

Philadelphia last weekend.

With both his speed and his savvy, Best has brought some

much-needed excitement to the Lions. Although Detroit is struggling

again to win games, the new running back is making quite an impact.

In his first two games as a pro, he’s scored five touchdowns.

”I’m a fan,” Detroit receiver Nate Burleson said. ”I told him

in the preseason that his goals should be mighty high, individually

and as the starting running back of this team. He has the talent to

be one of the best backs in the NFL this year.”

Best is already putting up numbers that have him in pretty

impressive company. He’s the first rookie to score five touchdowns

in his first two games since Billy Sims in 1980. In Detroit’s 35-32

loss to the Eagles, he caught nine passes for 154 yards, the most

yards receiving in a game by a first-year running back since

Herschel Walker had 170 in 1986.

His 232 total yards from scrimmage against the Eagles put him

fifth on the Lions’ single-game list, just behind the likes of Sims

and Barry Sanders.

”My expectations are high, so whatever they need me to do, I

feel like I should go out there and perform,” Best said. ”If

somebody gets me, it’s my fault. I owe it to my O-line and the

receivers. When they put me in a good position, I have to make a

play.”

Best has helped the Lions score points despite an injury to

quarterback Matthew Stafford in Week 1. Detroit also lost Burleson

early against the Eagles with a right ankle injury.

The last thing the Lions need are injury problems after winning

just two games the last two seasons. Burleson said there’s a chance

he could play this weekend at Minnesota. Coach Jim Schwartz didn’t

give an update on Stafford’s status Monday but said he might have

more to say Wednesday.

With Burleson out and the Eagles focused on stopping wide

receiver Calvin Johnson, Detroit went to Best early and often. He

scored on a 14-yard run in the first quarter, and his 75-yard

touchdown reception gave the Lions a 17-7 lead in the second.

”All I had to do was stutter a little bit just to set it up,

but everybody had their man and I think I went untouched,” Best

said. ”That shows you that there’s blocking out there.”

It also shows that Best is a poised runner with good field

vision.

Perhaps his one weakness is short-yardage situations – the

5-foot-10, 199-pound Best was stopped on fourth-and-1 in the fourth

quarter. That small frame has also raised questions about his

durability. He missed a few games last season at California after a

fall knocked him out and sent him to the hospital with a concussion

and sore back.

Best was injured when he hurdled an Oregon State defender at the

end of a touchdown run. He vaulted into the air and then was bumped

even higher by another defender before falling on his back and head

from about 8 feet in the air.

Best’s injury history gave NFC North rival Minnesota pause. The

Vikings had the 30th pick in the draft but traded it to the Lions,

and Detroit took Best.

”There’s no question about his ability,” Minnesota coach Brad

Childress said. ”He’s got ‘A’ ability. We just had, in this day

and age, concerns about his concussions and the fact that with a

smaller-in-stature running back, how he could play through

that.”

This weekend, the Vikings have a new concern: stopping Best.