Leshoure's Debut Will Be a Pivotal Moment for the 2012 Lions

J.P. ScottSenior Analyst IAugust 25, 2012

July 28, 2012; Allen Park, MI, USA; Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure (25) during training camp at the Detroit Lions training facility. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight, Mikel Leshoure will be on the receiving end of the most closely watched quarterback-running back exchange in a Detroit Lions' football game since Barry Sanders left Motown.

It has been a long road to this point for Leshoure after what looked to be a promising future following his selection by the Lions in the 2011 NFL Draft.

He was going to be the workhorse back Detroit was missing; completing their rise from perennial NFL doormat to serious Super Bowl contender.

Instead, he suffered a season ending Achilles tendon injury and the Lions forged on without him. In 2011, Detroit had a running back eclipse the 100-yard mark twice during the regular season.

The Lions had a relatively successful 2011 campaign, but one can't help wonder what difference a solid and consistent running game, led by a three-down back like Leshoure, would have made.

With the addition and subsequent successful debut of Cedric Benson in Green Bay and the return of Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte in Minnesota and Chicago respectively, Detroit is left as the only team in the NFC North without a feature-type back capable of handling 20 or more carries each week.

A successful showing by Leshoure tonight against the Raiders, regardless of it only being a preseason game, would go a long way towards answering a popular question: Can the Lions muster a respectable running game?

His return from his two-game suspension would then be looked upon by Detroit players, coaches, and fans as a money-in-the-bank situation, knowing that regardless of what happens in the first two games, things can only get better.

An average or disappointing performance, however, would again leave the Lions in a position of leaning heavily on their elite passing attack and planning on shootouts with the likes of Chicago, Green Bay, and Atlanta throughout the season.

Mikel Leshoure has all of the physical tools and potential to be a bell-cow for the Lions for the next 5-7 years. Tonight, everyone with a vested interest in Detroit Lion football will watch with great anticipation, looking for any signs of him being able to meet that potential and help take the franchise to the next level.