The Detroit Lions released fullback Jerome Felton Tuesday according to NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora.
Felton was the biggest back left on the roster for Detroit and the only fullback. Felton’s release comes as a bit of surprise considering he could have been a key contributor for the Lions in short yardage situations, especially after the release of Mike Bell.
But Detroit apparently released the fourth-year man out of Furman because they wanted to keep more tight ends, which makes sense considering who they have at the tight end position.
Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Will Heller are all quality tight ends and Heller will likely serve as a fullback/tight end hybrid as he did last season. With Heller the Lions need not worry about the fullback position and probably will run a lot of one-back sets with Jahvid Best, likely more than they would have had Felton remained on the roster.
The real loss here is something the Lions may have never had since losing Mikel LeShoure for the season, a runner who can pound out extra yards on goaline, short yardage and clock burning situations. Best is an explosive back and can make plenty of plays in a variety of different ways but he is not the type of back who can impose his will and fight for extra yards after contact on a consistent basis.
Jerome Harrison and Aaron Brown are similar backs to Best. Although Harrison is a bit more powerful than Best and Brown, he doesn’t exactly fit the power back mold at 5-9 and 205 pounds. The only runner that comes close to fitting that mold on Detroit’s roster is Maurice Morris, who at 5-11 and 216 pounds can provide somewhat consistent production between the tackles. Morris is still recovering from a fractured hand but did begin practicing again on Aug. 21, so it should only be a matter of time before he sees some in-game action.
The No. 2 running back on the depth chart is still up for grabs between Harrison, Brown and Morris, but the role of short yardage back likely only belongs to one man. Whether Morris maintains his role from 2010 as the second back in the rotation as well, largely depends on his health and production once he gets on the field.
Morris will have every opportunity considering Harrison’s inconsistency thus far this preseason and Brown’s inability to run between the tackles. He may not be LeShoure but he’s the best option for Detroit, heck, he may be the only option.