Last year, I broke down the what I called the key performance indicators of minicamp. As I said at the time:
We won’t get to see this First Real Football in detail. There won’t be any TV broadcast we can TiVO and replay. There won’t be any live streaming play-by-play. There probably won’t be any live Tweeting, either (since the Twitter-savviest Detroit sports journalist, Greg Eno, has informed me he won’t be there). And of course, we won't have any of the typical measures of football success to go by--yards, points, wins, or losses. So, we’ll have to wade knee-deep into the stream of quotes, blurbs, blogs, and articles that will flow through our favored information channels in the nights and days following these practices, and hope to catch some fish of truth.
In the absence of absolutes, all we have to measure is the relatives: one player against another, one position group against another. Until this point, though, there hasn’t been much “Real Football”—no hitting, no tackling, no full-speed blitzing or blocking—so we’ve seen none of the truth that only fire can tell.
Tom “Killer” Kowalski over at Mlive.com notes Kevin Smith got on some 7-on-7 action, but John Niyo of the Detroit News gives us news of the other back, Javhid Best. The initial signs are extremely encouraging. Quoth DT Landon Cohen:
"That guy has got impeccable cutting and great speed, so he's gonna be one of those guys that can take it to the house for us. When he gets the ball, he's got great vision, great athleticism. He's gonna be great, man. I like what I see in him so far."
Superficially, Best’s, ahem, best attributes are his speed, acceleration, quickness, burst, explosion, and other synonyms for running fast. But Jahvid’s first word to describe what he does best is “vision,” and it’s exciting to hear a teammate say the same thing.
Of course, as a Lions tailback, and a first-round pick to boot, Best will be unfairly compared to Barry Sanders. But in this way, Best definitely reminds me of Barry—for all that was (rightly) made of Barry’s speed, acceleration, quickness, burst, and explosion, his greatest gift was his vision. His vision, that let him see daylight where there was none. His vision, that let him see when he’d get more daylight by pausing and letting his pursuers overpursue. His vision, that allowed him to avoid big hits before they came. His vision, which allowed him to apply his ability to run fast in game situations. His vision, which converted talent into greatness with perfect efficiency.
That greatness is singular; Barry Sanders will ever be the only Barry Sanders. But if Best, and his teammates, are right, and Best’s best quality is his vision, his greatness could be something to behold as well. Fortunately for us, training camp will be public again this year, so we can all behold it together.