Healthy Running Backs are Only Half the Battle for the Detroit Lions

The post-mortem discussion of the Detroit Lions’ running game has largely centered around the health of running backs Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure. The remaining portion of the discussion surrounds the future of Kevin Smith.

This ignores at least 50% of what should make up a relevant discussion of where the Lions need to go with their running game.

With the Lions’s season coming to a close at the hands of the Saints and the similarities between the two high powered offenses, it is no wonder that Jim Schwartz referenced the Saints as a model to follow. Tim Twentyman put an article up on the Detroit Lions website about this topic and while I agree with the conclusion based upon recent quotes from Jim Schwartz, I get there my different means.

It’s not about Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure looking like Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, it’s about what’s up front. The Lions interior offensive line has been one of the most criticized units on the team while the Saints are sending both starting guards to the Pro Bowl (unless they make it to the Super Bowl).

How often did the Lions fail on the ground because there just wasn’t anywhere to go or a defender was meeting the back at the hand-off? Too often.

It is understandable how the Lions got to this point. Coming off an 0-16 season the new Mayhew-Lewand-Schwartz regime had a tall task in adding talent to the roster. With more spots to fill than draft picks and free agent targets to fill them, a serviceable offensive line was an easy unit to leave relatively untouched. Three years later, the offensive line remains just “serviceable” while a number of other position groups can carry much more flattering labels. It is time for that to start to change.

There is a lot yet to be determined about the 2012 draft class but an early look suggests it could be one of the best groups of interior lineman in years. It might just turn out that the Lions can marry value and need this April.

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Tags: Detroit Lions Guard Jahvid Best Kevin Smith Mikel Leshoure Offensive Line

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