The last year has been anything but kind to Mikel Leshoure. From tearing his left Achilles tendon to multiple run-ins with the law, suffice to say things could have gone a bit smoother during what should have been an outstanding rookie season.
Nonetheless, Leshoure appears to be back to 100 percent heading into the 2012 NFL season. He will serve a two-game suspension to start the regular season as a result of the NFL's substance abuse policy. Once he has served his time, however, Lion's head coach Jim Schwartz needs to plug Leshoure into the Detroit offense as the starter and feature back. Here are five reasons why:
1. Draft Position
In the NFL, you draft guys in the top three rounds to be starters. The Lions drafted Leshoure in the second round of the 2011 draft with the intent of making him the franchise running back for the foreseeable future. Regardless of what he has gone through over the past year, the Lions need to let him assume that role and at least see what kind of back he is going to be.
2. Success heals all wounds
The world seems to come down with a case of amnesia once we are blinded by success. By starting Leshoure immediately and giving him the chance to succeed, it will take the media attention away from his off-field issues and make everyone focus on his on-field performance. Given the attention paid to the Lions this offseason, this could be beneficial to the entire organization.
3. Keep defenses honest
Last season was a breakout year for quarterback Matthew Stafford and the entire Lions offense. They established themselves an an elite offensive force, thanks largely to the passing game.
In 2012, they'll take nobody by surprise, as opposing defenses will be ready to do all they can to shut down Detroit's aerial attack. That said, Leshoure is the only back on the roster who, in my opinion, could pound the ball between the tackles on three straight downs or swing out wide as an outlet receiver out of the backfield.
His ability to do both will be paramount in helping the Lions repeat and exceed the success they had last season.
4. The schedule fits his skill-set
Detroit's schedule is filled with two types of teams: Those they'll be in shootouts with and those they'll be expected to physically overwhelm.
In order to best the high powered offenses like Atlanta, Green Bay, Houston and Philadelphia, the Lions will have to limit the amount of time those teams spend on the field. This is where Leshoure's power running game will come into play. The Lions will be best suited to get an early lead and feed Leshoure the rock as often as possible in order to milk the clock.
Games against Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Arizona, Tennessee and Seattle should give Detroit ample opportunity to hang big points on the scoreboard. They'll need to soften and break down those defenses first. What better way than a hefty dose of a 233-pound wrecking ball for the better part of the first two quarters? Leshoure is a load and can tire opposing defenses quickly.
5. Ball Security
Everyone knows it's tough to win games when you turn the ball over. In a division with Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers slinging touchdown passes at every opportunity, every possession matters. The one guy you can trust not to give the ball away is Mikel Leshoure.
The NCAA doesn't keep stats on fumbles, but ESPN draft guru Todd McShay claims Leshoure never fumble once during his entire college career. That's a sense of security that should warm the hearts of Lions fans every time Leshoure totes the pigskin in 2012.