Improved Running Attack? Schlesinger's Return Key

Steve Mariucci said his commitment to running the football is solid and that he would never abandon the running game. But you could hardly tell it by Sunday's game in Dallas. The run could return against Washington on Sunday, however, if fullback Cory Schlesinger returns from an injury.

(ALLEN PARK) - Steve Mariucci said his commitment to running the football is solid and that he would never abandon the running game. But you could hardly tell it by Sunday's game in Dallas.

Detroit called starting running back Kevin Jones number just eleven times, Shawn Bryson got it twice and a Joey Harrington scramble added up to a total of just 13 running plays all day.

Mariucci said one of the reasons that he elected not to run the ball more was the injury to reserve fullback Stephen Trejo.

Once Trejo was lost for the game, Mariucci said he had to make a choice regarding how much to use backup tailback Shawn Bryson at the fullback position and the toll it would take on Bryson's ability to play in other sets.

With veteran fullback Cory Schlesinger likely available for duty, Mariucci will probably look to run the ball more than he did last week.

"He's our best lead blocker," said Mariucci of Schlesinger. "He can carry the ball and catch the ball. He's a versatile guy and we need him back. We just haven't had his services enough this year. I hope his hamstring holds up this week and he can start for us."

Lions quarterback Joey Harrington can't wait to get Schlesinger back in the lineup.

"He's been itching to get back out here and play. He's not the type of guy who likes to sit out. I could tell that he was happy to be out here (in practice), and I was glad to have him because Cory (doesn't) get nearly as much credit for the stuff that he does. There are so many behind-the-scenes things that people don't see that mean a ton to this team."

Schlesinger acts as a lead blocker for Jones on most of the Lions running plays when they are in the two-back set. It is a staple of the Lions offense and one that was missing in action in Dallas.

If the nine-year standout from Nebraska is able to be near full strength, look for Detroit to launch a more balanced attack against Washington than the near 3-to-1 pass to run ratio they ran against the Cowboys.

Detroit would love to add receiver Roy Williams, the MVP of the 2004 team to date, back to the lineup for Sunday's game. Williams is the one Lions player that opposing defenses have to account for. If he is healthy enough from his severely sprained ankle to go, he stretches the opponents' defense and helps the team avoid seeing eight man fronts.

Williams is still listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Washington. Fox Sports will bring their national pre-game broadcast team of Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and host James Brown into Ford Field to do their show live. Fox is likely hoping to showcase a potential matchup between Williams and Redskins safety Shawn Taylor, both candidates for rookie-of-the year honors, but with Williams hobbled and Taylor having off the field problems, the matchup may never materialize.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs spoke about Taylor's situation.

"You deal with a lot of young guys and sometimes they make mistakes," said Gibbs regarding Taylor who was charged with driving under the influence in suburban Washington, DC.

"What we've always talked about here is real simple rules. The cornerstone for those is don't embarrass the Redskins and use common sense. Sometimes that doesn't prevail. If we look at his family, if my sons or anybody else, if they did something wrong, they have to pay a price. I felt that (considering) the fact that he had missed practice and missed some meetings that it would be better for us to get started again fresh on Monday."

Taylor responded and has been welcomed back after the one-game benching by Gibbs who says there's a lot to like about the rangy rookie from University of Miami.

"I think he's got great range. He's a great athlete, he's got great hands. I think he could be a good receiver; I think he could be a running back. I think he's tough physically, so he covers a lot of ground back there. In the league it is hard to block a safety, so they get a chance to make a lot of plays in there and certainly I think he can do that for us. We need it."

A Williams vs. Taylor matchup on Sunday is the kind of treat Lions and Redskins fans alike will tune in for.

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