For the second week in a row, Jim Schwartz towed the company line as it related to underused running back Mikel Leshoure. The former second round pick who's become an afterthought with the signing of Reggie Bush and emergence of Joique Bell has failed to find playing time in the Detroit Lions' backfield, even with Bush fighting a knee injury last weekend.
Schwartz, himself, brushed off the question again Monday with another vanilla answer during his press conference. "We have a lot of confidence in Mikel. When he plays, he'll play well," the coach said, to the surprise of few who heard the exact same refrain last week.
When, though, will Leshoure get his chance to play and play well? Not soon, it seems, which is the wrong decision tactically for Detroit. The Lions should be showcasing Leshoure as much as possible, and Bush's injury last week presented the team with the perfect opportunity to do just that. Leshoure could have been used in addition to Bell in between the tackles, and also featured in the passing game. Doing this would have shown teams he's still capable of shouldering a workload. Chances are, going up against Washington's beleaguered defense, he could have padded his statistics, as well.
Instead, the Lions whiffed on that opportunity, letting Leshoure sit on the bench the entire game and not figure into the offense. For a team which suddenly finds itself in need of another wide receiver given Nate Burleson's injury, that decision could prove expensive. The Lions could have dangled Leshoure as an asset this week with his value high, but now, will have to hope a team flies in blind on a player who struggled with drops and fumbles in the preseason, or deal a higher draft pick away for what they need. Nobody would expect to acquire Josh Gordon for Leshore straight up, but the running back could be an intriguing additional piece which might save Detroit from dealing precious draft picks.
Schwartz is wrong on one account as it relates to Leshoure. "It (Leshoure playing) just never came up," he said, in reference to the running back not seeing any time against the Redskins. "In this game, Joique (Bell) was handling that (rushing) load and Theo (Riddick) was handling some of the passing stuff we were doing." The reality is, Schwartz and his staff chose to put Riddick, a rookie, ahead of Leshoure on the depth chart, meaning him playing never had the chance to come up during the game. The opportunity certainly presented itself for Leshoure to see game action prior to Sunday, especially considering he's started and scored in the NFL and was a surer bet to make some sort of an impact than Riddick was.
Clearly, joining some colleagues in reading the tea leaves, Leshoure will be on his way out of town soon, meaning the Lions should put an end to the weekly song and dance, give him some playing time, see what interest they can attract on the market before the trade deadline and deal him. Running backs have the shortest shelf life in football, so chances are, even Leshoure could command interest, as unknown a commodity as he currently is.
Detroit isn't being fair to Leshoure, who deserves the chance to make an impact somewhere as a full-time player. That place is no longer Detroit, where Bell has proven he can be a versatile, every down back in the absence of Bush. Knowing that, the Lions should be motivated to help their player find a fresh start by proving he can still play. Moreover, the team should be motivated to get something in return from Leshoure, other than a warmer seat on the bench.
With Bush likely back in the fold this weekend, when that day comes is still anyone's guess. Until then, everyone will have to take Schwartz at his word that Leshoure can still be a productive back in the NFL, and hope another team ends up feeling the same way one day.
In this case, excuse anyone who fails to believe without first seeing.
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