For far too long, the Detroit Lions offense has craved balance. The type of balance that the running game has refused to provide.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the passing attack have been among the most prolific in football, but without the support of a decent ground game, the Lions offense has been predictably one-dimensional.
That unfortunate truth is quickly becoming a fallacy with the emergence of RB Mikel LeShoure.
After sitting out all of last season due to injury and part of this year due to suspension, LeShoure is quickly proving to be a versatile and dynamic weapon.
While the Lions have found dynamic RBs before, the difference now is that LeShoure looks to be a consistent and dependable weapon.
His biggest breakout moment came in the first half of Week 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In that half, LeShoure found the end zone three different times. He is a punishing back who can take over a contest.
Jahvid Best (when healthy) also has game-changing ability, but he cannot handle 20 carries a game between the tackles. Joique Bell is a nice short-yardage back, but he is far from ready to be a featured option. And Kevin Smith is the guy Detroit refuses to ever put any real faith in.
So, the Lions have now given the keys to LeShoure, and he has became the exact player Detroit needed. LeShoure can handle whatever workload he is given, including 26 carries against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3.
While offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has never been afraid to let Stafford air it out 30-40 times a game, he no longer has to rely on that approach as the basis of the offensive attack.
Defenses cannot afford to drop five or six players back into coverage, because at 6'0", 227 pounds, LeShoure has the ability to run right into the teeth of a defense and emerge with four or five yards every time. Linebackers will be forced to stay in the box instead of drifting back into deep zones or shadowing the Lions' elite playmakers on the outside.
Where second- and third-down plays were once relegated to playing catch-up, Detroit will now be able to open up the playbook as LeShoure gains valuable first-down yards.
There cannot be enough emphasis placed on what LeShoure means to the Lions attack. Goal-line play calls will now be a complete mystery to defenses. Play-action becomes feasible, because teams may actually believe there is a chance Detroit runs the ball.
Calvin Johnson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles may find more seams deep down the field because opposing secondaries are showing a level of respect to the Lions rushing game.
Now, do not take this to mean that LeShoure is the greatest running back ever to grace a football field. He has a long way to go in his development, and, in particular, he is not a great pass-catcher out of the backfield. However, his running style and versatility immediately changes the dynamic of Detroit's offense in a positive way.
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