Lions Hope RB Leshoure Can Boost Offense

Detroit welcomes running back Mikel Leshoure into the fold after limited ground attack has led to offensive deficiencies.

ALLEN PARK -- It's been in the making for a while but Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure is headed for his first career NFL game.

The Lions selected Leshoure in the second round of the 2011 NFL entry draft with high expectations only to watch him tear his Achilles early in training camp last season.

"We liked him an awful lot when we drafted him," said head coach Jim Schwartz this week. "We moved back up to get him. We've been waiting to get him on the field for a long time. He's a multidimensional back. He's not just a power runner inside, which he can do. He can make guys miss. He's good in the pass game; he's a smart guy. We say all the time when we draft, it's about finding a good match for what we're asking and it's also about requiring talent. Mikel fits what we want and he also is a talented player. We'll sort of reserve judgment and wait to see what his contribution will be, but it's good to get him back on the practice field."

The return of Leshoure has the potential to spark the Lions offense, which has gotten off to a lukewarm start to 2012.

The Lions have faced defenses that have essentially dared them to run, leaving two safeties high and exposing a seven-man front.

That was the case against the San Francisco 49ers and the Lions attempted to take advantage rushing 26 times. However, they failed to make the necessary plays, averaging only 3.2 yards-per-carry.

"It's obviously harder than when they have more guys in the box and less guys in the back," said quarterback Matthew Stafford. "You have to pick and choose and you have to run the right concepts, which we were doing. You just have to make some guys miss, some runs after catches, things like that."

For the Lions, efficiency is the key. It's not how often they run the ball, rather it's how successful they are when they decide to run. The Lions will remain a pass-first team but must have a dimension in the offense that can take advantage of teams that are overly worried about the pass.

"(Passing the ball) is our strength but at the same time, in this league, you have to be versatile," said wide receiver Nate Burleson. "It's going to be a game-to-game decision on how teams are going to play you. If teams give us the run, we have to take advantage of that. We can't force the pass all the way down the field. A lot of teams aren't going to give us the chance to exploit one-on-one coverage, so the running game is going to be essential for us."

Enter Leshoure, who must be chomping at the bit to return.

Not only did the 22-year-old back have his rookie season whipped out, he had to serve a two-game suspension after two Marijuana-related arrests in the offseason.

The wait is finally over. After mere glimpses in two-preseason appearances, the Lions will get a real look at the running back they traded up to select in 2011.


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