Much has been made about the Detroit Lions' issues with running the ball. While their passing attack is one of the best in the league, they struggled in 2011 to be a balanced offense due to their running game struggling so much. In turn, many have clamored that the running back position is near the top of the list of needs for the upcoming offseason.
One thing many are forgetting is that the Lions should be getting two running backs who were injured in 2011 back next season. One of them is Mikel Leshoure, who missed the entire season after going down with an Achilles injury. Jahvid Best also should be back after missing the final 10 games of the regular season because of another concussion. Although concussions can be tricky, especially after a player has already suffered a few in his career, Best said this week he will "definitely be back" and that he's not concerned about his history of concussions.
Leshoure is also coming back from a serious injury, but all signs point to him being on track with his recovery. Jim Schwartz said during an interview earlier in the week that although Leshoure isn't quite ready to carry the ball just yet, he should be "with the rest of the team" when the Lions' offseason conditioning program begins in April.
If Leshoure and Best are both healthy and if Kevin Smith is brought back, the Lions will suddenly have a pretty good stable of running backs. Schwartz actually compared the Lions offense with all of its backs healthy to what the Saints offense looks like.
"We talk about the Saints and how powerful they are; give us a couple running backs like that. The way they use (Darren) Sproles and the way we use Jahvid Best. The way they use Pierre Thomas and Ingram and the way we plan on using Leshoure. That will be a big boost for us."
One of the things many have overlooked with the Saints is their running game. That's not a surprise given what Drew Brees did this season, but they have a solid running game, which is a big reason why their offense is so dangerous.
If the Lions can find a running game next season, their offense will also become much more dangerous. While it's already quite good and has several playmakers, balancing things out and making defenses respect the running game would go a long way toward the offense getting even better in 2012.