Lions fans are about to witness what they’ve all been waiting for since April 28, 2011 when Detroit made RB Mikel Leshoure the 57th overall pick in the NFL draft. Since then, Leshoure missed the entire 2011 season with a ruptured Achilles and was suspended the first two games of 2012 for off-field arrests.
For now, RB Kevin Smith will hold the reigns as Detroit’s starting tailback as they ease Leshoure into the mix, but make no mistake, it could only be a matter of time before No. 25 gets his hands on those reigns with no restraint.
Leshoure possesses the kind of ability that franchises desire in a featured back. His ability to make defenders miss is unmistakable. He displays a rare quickness and burst that complements his size (standing at 6’0” and weighing 227 lbs) very nicely. His dreadlocks bouncing off his shoulder pads are also not the only attribute that makes him comparable to a younger Steven Jackson, but also his punishing running style.
It would not be out of bounds to predict Leshoure starting in the Lions backfield by Week 5, especially when you consider the injury woes that has crippled Kevin Smith his entire career, not to mention that the depth chart behind them looks about as stable as Terrell Owens’ emotional state.
Thus far, Smith has stayed upright, but even a healthy Smith can’t compete with the talent level Leshoure brings to the table.
One weakness in Leshoure’s game that was evident in limited preseason work was his pass protection. In Detroit’s third tuneup game vs. Oakland, there were three plays that Leshoure was called upon to block or to “chip” a defender on a pass play.
Who will be Detroit's leading rusher in 2012?
Of those three plays, Leshoure was unable to make an effective block on his defender. In fact, if you remember the injury to Matthew Stafford’s left hand that forced him out of that game and into a cast, you will recall that it came at the expense of a missed block by Leshoure.
The good news is that pass protection can be taught.
Leshoure was not able to practice or attend games during his suspension but was able to work out at the Lions’ facilities. For someone as talented as Leshoure, it will not be long before he understands his role in the passing game, surpasses a lackluster Kevin Smith and is Detroit’s featured back.
One question that remains is the status of 2010’s first round pick, RB Jahvid Best. Best, still recovering from a concussion from last season, is on the Physically Unable to Perform list—which makes him ineligible to play until Week 7.
Some suspected Best to be out for the season or to even retire, but according to CBS sports in his August 27 press conference, head coach Jim Schwartz stated in regards to the Lions activating Best that “he's looked extremely good in all his physical stuff and as soon as we can get him back and get clearance we will."
Either way, Leshoure will get every opportunity to make a name for himself and give Detroit something they’ve been consistently lacking since No. 20 was in their backfield—a legitimate running threat.