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Lions think they finally have the running game they need

Kevin Smith AP

The Lions haven’t had a 1,000-yard runner in the last seven seasons and have generally had a poor running game since Barry Sanders retired after the 1998 season, but they sound confident in Detroit that this is the year that changes.

Lions running back Jahvid Best has called himself a matchup nightmare, and the Lions’ coaches are talking up the possibility of using Best as a third-down back while making Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith a 1-2 punch as the featured backs in the offense.

Leshoure definitely has that in him,” head coach Jim Schwartz said, via the Detroit Free Press. “No matter how we do it, running the football, throwing the football, short yardage, first-and-10, we need to have the ability to pick up tough yardage, and I think that’s something that Mikel can do for us.”

Smith was the Lions’ leading rusher in 2008 and 2009 but was totally overlooked last year: The Lions didn’t tender him as a restricted free agent and no other team invited him to training camp. But when the Lions signed him in November, he shocked everyone by gaining 201 yards from scrimmage and scoring three touchdowns in a Week 11 win over the Panthers. Unfortunately, Smith suffered an ankle injury the following week and was hobbled the rest of the year, but the Lions say they now realize what he can do.

“Kevin Smith did an outstanding job for us last year,” Schwartz said. “So however that dynamic works it’s an important thing for us and hopefully those guys can give it to us.”

As long as they have Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the Lions will have a pass-first offense. But the Lions sound confident that for the first time in a long time, when they need to run they’ll be able to run.

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19 Responses to “Lions think they finally have the running game they need”
  1. chifan17 says: Jul 9, 2012 11:34 AM

    Yeah guys Detroit’s running game is a sleeper in fantasy this year. Everyone pick up Jahvid Best (while I sneak in and grab Calvin Johnson).

  2. chazk100 says: Jul 9, 2012 11:35 AM

    if the three of them could trade body parts, perhaps one of them could stay healthy all year.

  3. cletusvandam says: Jul 9, 2012 11:35 AM

    The Lions must have forgotten that Leshoure is suspended for awhile and Kevin Smith is always injured.

  4. purpleguy says: Jul 9, 2012 11:36 AM

    Maybe, but can the Lions realistically count on two of those three guys?

  5. pturner81 says: Jul 9, 2012 11:40 AM

    without suspensions/injuries lions have an above average run game that would excel to top 10 due to the pass threat

  6. tbbucs1638 says: Jul 9, 2012 11:42 AM

    Jahvid best isnt the top hb there anymore, lesoure will probably start and he deserves his shot…best is to injury prone and gets too many concussions to play every down

  7. sportfreak1996 says: Jul 9, 2012 12:15 PM

    For all the Jahvid haters out there, just keep this in mind…Mikel Leshoure is coming back from a torn achilles, an injury no RB has ever returned from to turn in a solid post injury career; and the injury history of Kevin Smith is well documented (plus there’s all those carries he had to pile up in college, making him about a 3-year veteran in terms of work before he ever suited up for an NFL game).

    I’m not saying Jahvid is going to be a world beater or even stay concussion free, I just find it funny that everyone is writing off Jahvid due to his concussions, when the other 2 guys are in just, if not in worse, injury shape.

  8. dynast77 says: Jul 9, 2012 12:20 PM

    You start off by saying “The Lions haven’t had a 1,000-yard runner in the last seven seasons” before saying that they plan to split carries among 3 different backs. So, in other words, they won’t have a 1,000 yard runner this year either.

  9. moscratch13 says: Jul 9, 2012 12:38 PM

    Just keep the faith they will all be healthy this year. It could be a possibility if they split them up like they are talking!!!!!!

  10. mjkelly77 says: Jul 9, 2012 12:43 PM

    If Mikel Leshoure bounces back from his Achilles tendon repair, the running game will be much improved.

  11. mjkelly77 says: Jul 9, 2012 1:00 PM

    … Mikel Leshoure is coming back from a torn achilles, an injury no RB has ever returned from to turn in a solid post injury career …
    ________________

    When the injury occurred, I did some extensive reading on Achilles tendon repairs as I assumed his career was over. I read a number of medical studies, evaluations, etc. and one of the studies was very in depth. What you’ve stated isn’t neccesarily true.

    The issue is that virtually all of the repairs studied have been on older running backs. Not one player was even close to being as young as Leshoure. Comparative data indicates that the output of these running backs was already in a state of decline due to age and normal degradation. The final results were inconclusive as the two groups (non-injured vs. injured and repaired) indicated about the same level of decline. In other words, all of the players experienced reduced ability and output. The resultant belief is that a younger player could return to his pre-injury form.

    Since the Lions don’t seem to be worried about Leshoure, I have to believe that their medical staff has confidence in Leshoure’s ability to assume the role he was to have last year before he was injured. It will be interesting to see.

  12. angrylionsfan says: Jul 9, 2012 1:07 PM

    I’m hoping that out of the 3 at least ONE is healthy at any given time. LeShore may not come back from injury that easily (and needs to stay the hell out of trouble for the rest of the year), Best is a concussion away from retirement, and Smith is injury prone too. I really wish they would have signed Michael Bush or even drafted a RB AGAIN instead of Broyles.

  13. sourcewithknowledgeofthesituation says: Jul 9, 2012 1:16 PM

    Running from the law, maybe….

  14. funktron2x says: Jul 9, 2012 1:28 PM

    If you think that the other backs have as much of an issue with injuries as Jahvid, you haven’t been paying attention. This isn’t about naysaying his chances to get back to form or some forecast of doom and gloom, it’s just the simple fact that everyone should understand now: Concussions are about the worst injury a guy can get. One more can end you career. You can recover from just about everything else, and you can do it more than once. But concussions don’t work that way. Get even one, and your career path has changed, especially if you get hit nearly every down. As a Lions fan who fully understands what Best can offer this team (beautiful explosiveness), i pray he stays healthy and delivers us big moments with that world class speed – but his odds are longer than most to finish his career proper. It’s just the reality of the game today.

  15. comeonnowguys says: Jul 9, 2012 1:28 PM

    That’s because they’ve had an heavy offseason training regimen of running from the police, and expect it to pay off in 12 months. Maybe even 6 with good behavior.

    …So, 12 months, then.

  16. shaggytoodle says: Jul 9, 2012 1:54 PM

    I thought they said that when they drafted Kevin Jones, and then Kevin Smith, now LeShore is the answer.

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  17. ocdn says: Jul 9, 2012 2:52 PM

    Can they all stay healthy?

  18. metzgerf says: Jul 9, 2012 3:42 PM

    It all sounds great, but none of it means anything if their o-line can’t push some d-linemen out of the way so the RBs have somewhere to run. Last year wasn’t terrible, but here’s hoping they’ve improved a bit from years past.

  19. bmkmd says: Jul 11, 2012 2:24 PM

    I think the O line will be happy with more running plays.

    On passing plays the offensive line is always on DEFENSE, moving backwards while trying to hold off the “defensive” linemen.

    On running plays the offensive line gets to go and hit someone, plough into the defensive line, as in BE OFFENSIVE, and when the backs succeed the line gets revved up even more.

    Don’t worry so much about the O linemen in a running game.

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