The New York Giants had "Thunder and Lightning" back in the 2000 NFL season. Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber had piqued the imagination of football fans across the nation. A flashy nickname for a duo from the Big Apple seemed like a natural fit and worked so nicely it was trotted back out for Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs . Hey, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. Well, as we head into the 2012 season it is high time that the Detroit Lions' young backfield of Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best get a moniker. One that comes immediately to mind is "Hope and Dreams". As in the Lions sure 'hope' that Leshoure comes back with at least 80% of his speed and power running style after his achilles injury and there is the 'dream' that Jahvid Best can return to play any games in 2012. It is amazing how little attention seems to be given to just how bleak the running back situation in Detroit happens to be. Reports of Leshoure being ready for training camp and on track for a full recovery have the folks in Detroit feeling pretty darn good. It was his achilles folks, running backs have not fared well in returning from these types of serious injuries. Leshoure may be on the field next season for the Lions, but he may never regain the burst and power he flashed at Illinois. Best has still not been cleared to return to football activities. In case we have all forgotten, Jahvid was injured in October 2011. Ask a Pittsburgh Penguins fan how that concussion problem Sydney Crosby has is working out. The Lions have big questions heading into the off season at the running back position and no, Kevin Smith is not an answer. Smith himself has some major issues with staying healthy for extended periods of time. Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams proved in 2011 that they are not capable of getting the job done consistently either. So, what are the Lions' options to get their back field situation shored up before training camp opens? Picking 23rd in the first round of the draft does not leave them in a position to get a top notch college prospect at that spot. Drafting Ronnie Hillman or Chris Polk on day three of the draft makes sense as they may get lucky and find lightning in a bottle. In the mean time the Lions have to get some running back help and free agency appears to be the best route available.
Calvin Johnson and his contract status will directly affect the Lions ability to go out and sign quality running backs who can be immediate contributors. If Megatron does not sign a restructured, more cap friendly contract before 2012, he will count 21 million against the salary cap. With limited funds to sign some running back talent, the Lions will need to be very prudent in whom they decide to bring on board. There are two names that come to mind that would fit all the criteria to be viable options for success in the Lions system (and can more importantly be signed cheaply). Ladies and gentleman I give you Jason Snelling and Lex Hilliard. Take a moment and digest the two names before immediately dismissing the idea completely. Snelling is an unrestricted free agent; and while Hilliard is a restricted free agent, he appears the odd man out with the recent signing of CFL import Jerome Messam. These two running backs have the skill set to step right in and carry the load for the Lions in 2012. Throughout his career Snelling has always performed well when given extended action. He is a big, physical running back with the hands of a wide receiver in the passing game. More importantly Snelling is solid in pass protection and can help to keep the golden boy Mathew Stafford upright and tossing the ball to Calvin. For his career Snelling averages 4 yards a carry, 21 receptions a season and over 7 yards a reception. In 2009 when given the most carries he's had in a single season (142) Snelling averaged 4.3 yards a carry. He also added 30 receptions in 2009 and managed to score 5 touchdowns. Snelling resigned with Atlanta last season due to a lack of interest around the league so the Lions will not have to pay a whole lot to get him, and that is just what they need to do. Hilliard obviously has a much smaller sample size of work to evaluate but has flashed some straight ahead short yardage skills. Hilliard received the most work of his career in 2009 after Ronnie Brown went out with a foot injury and Ricky Williams was banged up late in the season. Hilliard only averaged 3.9 yards on 23 carries but more importantly caught the ball on all 20 of his targets. Snelling and Hilliard are both nearly six feet tall and over 230 pounds so can take the wear and tear of a NFL season.The Detroit Lions may indeed get Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best both back for the 2012 season but for how long? Recent history would show it better to err on the side of caution and have a contingency plan already in place. Jason Snelling and Lex Hilliard can and should be that plan for the Detroit Lions for the 2012 season.