The Lions offered fans a nice tease of things to come in a victory over the Ravens last Friday, in a game where quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson on five passes for 111 yards and a score in less than a half of play. Even with such a small sample size during a pair of meaningless games, the two offensive stars appear to be in mid-season form and look poised to match their impressive offensive numbers from a year ago.
In order to take the franchise to the next level though, Stafford and Johnson will each need their team's running attack to be much more than the middling product it has been in recent years. Thankfully, good news on that front should come in the form of 2011 draftee Mikel Leshoure, who will conveniently make his Lions debut on Saturday.
Considering his ideal blend of power and speed, the Lions are desperately hoping the 6'0, 227-pound back from Illinois can quite literally run away with the job, or at the very least prove that he can at some point in the future. The status of tailback Jahvid Best remains a sore spot for the organization heading into the year, and Leshoure is easily one of the biggest X-factors on the Lions' roster at the moment.
"I feel good," Leshoure told the Detroit Free Press. "My body might react a little bit different probably the next day. It might be a little bit more sore than usual, but I'm aware of that, and I'm ready for it."
But for a player who hasn't been in a game situation since Dec. 29, 2010 (seriously), back in college no less, the real story on Saturday might not be how well Leshoure plays, but for how long. Lions coaches have already announced their plan to keep starters in the game for essentially the first half, even if it's quite clear the second-year tailback is a special case.
"I believe he'll go out and perform very well," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan stated confidently after Thursday's practice. "It won't be a full game, but we'll get him a fair amount, and once we feel that he's got enough work in, then we'll just kind of make that call during a game."
While the debut of Leshoure is an obvious boost, the Lions are still expected to play without the services of a few key players on Saturday due to injuries. Among them is starting safety Louis Delmas, who has not progressed as hoped from knee surgery and doesn't appear likely to play in the team's Sept. 9 opener. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch is also unlikely to suit up after not taking part in team drills on Thursday, while running back Stefan Logan and linebacker Travis Lewis are each also expected to be held out of action with injuries.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, August 25; 7 p.m. EDT
Location: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
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