The Detroit Lions running game announced their presence with authority to the entire NFL yesterday with a thorough trashing of the hapless Jaguars. Fans watching Sportscenter probably couldn’t believe their eyes last night when they saw the Lions highlights of of their win against Jacksonville. Was that the Lions scoring three touchdowns in the first half, RUNNING the ball? Or even, was that the Lions scoring three touchdowns in the first half, period? Mikel Leshoure put on a show in the first half only to be matched by the effort by Joique Bell in the second.
The rest of the NFL should be very worried. The Detroit Lions, who had one of the most prolific offenses, are now armed with a very strong running game, or as Mike Martz said on the tube yesterday, “They’re a complete offense now.” The Lions have been trying to establish a running game since Barry Sanders ran out of town more than a decade ago, but to no avail. As hard as they tried, they never had the talent to make it work. After trying out all the Kevin’s they could find, from Jones to Smith, they finally found that special talent in Mikel Leshoure. It took all of what, six games for Leshoure to establish himself the third most important person on the offense, behind Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson? He’s fast and strong and impossible to bring down with an arm tackle.
Lets not underestimate how valuable it is for the Lions to have a quality back-up in Joique Bell. The Little Engine That Could from Wayne State is just starting to show how talented he is by twice jumping over tacklers, and even out gaining Leshoure by two yards, 73 to 71. He showed how much heart he has by laying out for a pass. This is the kind of combination Coach Schwartz has been dreaming about every since he took this job and made Matt Stafford his number one pick. The sad irony is that Leshoure and Bell established themselves the same week Jahvid Best was declared ineligible to play for the rest of the year, and possibly the rest of his career.
Is there some kind of 6th Man award for offensive linemen? It’s hard not to notice Riley Reiff clearing the way for the running backs on those touchdown runs. Leshoure calls him a “Beast”. That’s a pretty good compliment for a rookie. The first two picks are starting to make significant contributions to the Lions now. I can see Ryan Broyles being Matthew Stafford’s best friend on the field for the way he seems to always find an open space underneath. Speaking of rookies, Jonte Green is really developing before our eyes. Maybe someday he’ll be a starter even when the rest of the secondary is healthy.
It started out rough with the Lions going 1-3. It wasn’t that they just lost, but they looked clueless on offense doing it. It took them the six games since Leshoure started his career to get that head of steam up, but the locomotive that is the Lions offense is roaring now, and how far that takes the Lions is anyones guess. Once the game was a foregone conclusion, Mike Martz, who knows the woeful Lions history very well, said “This has been the missing piece for Detroit for some time. This dynamic running game will complete them and help them be a championship team again.”
Is this year too soon for that?