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Mikel Leshoure Suspended: How the RB's Punishment Affects the Detroit Lions

ALLEN PARK, MI - AUGUST 01:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions hands the ball off to Mikel Leshoure #25 during the days running drills at the Lions training facility on August 1, 2011 in Allen Park, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2012

The first of two expected suspensions has been handed down, and Mikel Leshoure will be watching from the sidelines for the first two games of the 2012 NFL season.

Leshoure, much like the Vikings' Jerome Simpson, also is being docked an extra pair of game checks.

So four weeks poorer for two very poor decisions.

Now that we've felt the hammer, let's take a look at the deeper results of the impact.

First of all, this shouldn't hurt his standing with the team. Another incident, yes. However, the Lions seem to be taking a patient stance with their 2011 draft class, and it's unlikely this changes much on its own.

He'll still be in training camp and can play in preseason games, so he'll get the practice in. He'll be at the facility and working with the team—he will still be a big part of that team and that offense.

The problem would arise if he 1) is arrested again and/or 2) if Jahvid Best explodes out of the gate.

If Best plays like a "house of fire," he might very well secure his spot as top cat in this offense. That said, he doesn't have the build to carry the load, and it's unlikely that they'd risk it—especially with his recent concussion history.

So Leshoure will still have a role, and probably a fairly significant one, come Week 3.

Even missing those first two games, Leshoure can have a tremendous season—which is why I've had him as my breakout star on offense for some time.The Lions won't throw as much as they did last year, which they partly did in the first place because of the injuries to the backfield.

They won't ground and pound it, but they will run a significant amount.

Even splitting carries, coming off injury and missing two games, Leshoure has the chance to be a really big factor in this offense, especially on third down.

Like Best, Leshoure is adept at catching the ball out of the backfield and can block—giving Matt Stafford another option on third down.

Maybe he won't put up Arian Foster numbers, but he should be able to do a lot of damage both running hard between the tackles and turning the corner.

I'd still love to see him and Best both lined up in the backfield—ah, to dream!

On the bright side, the two games might actually be a blessing for Leshoure, giving him two more games to fully recover from his Achilles injury.

We all know that the starters don't get a tremendous amount of work in preseason games—he won't be too exhausted even playing in those games.

Another two weeks will get him that much closer to 100 percent before he is tested for real in the Week 3 game against the Titans in Tennessee.

Sure, that's making lemonade out of league-supplied lemons, but it won't hurt.

As for the offense, the Lions have more than enough weapons to get by without Leshoure for two weeks. They have, as I mentioned, a healthy Best and a group of tremendous wide receivers in Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and rookie Ryan Broyles, who they hope will be 100 percent by the start of the season.

With Matt Stafford slinging the ball, offensively, they will be fine. We know they can air it out.

They have a very favorable first game against the Rams, though the second week brings the 49ers, who aren't the patsies they used to be.

It's not unrealistic to see at least a split there—Leshoure or not.

Here's one more thing we can glean from this suspension—Nick Fairley is probably going to get a three-to-four-game penalty.

Why do I believe that even though they were both arrested twice?

Well, Fairley was arrested twice, yes, but the second one occurred while he was enrolled in the NFL's drug treatment program. An arrest for a drug- or alcohol-related charge (Fairley was arrested for driving drunk, at 100 MPH no less) usually carries a harsher punishment.

I have never seen any mention of Leshoure being in the program prior to his second arrest. If he were arrested for possession or drunk driving now, the penalty would be stiffer.

Fairley was in the program, and that will hurt his case.

If Leshoure was suspended for two games and fined an additional two checks, I expect Fairley to see a slightly longer suspension.

Lions fans should prepare themselves for it.

For now, know that even though Leshoure is out for two games, the Lions have the offense to get past that opening two weeks.

 

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