Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mikel Leshoure has had a decent year for his first as a starter. However, a look at the film shows he's not playing to his full potential and has plenty of room to grow.
The Detroit Lions' running game has been mediocre this season. Though they have almost already surpassed the yards they gained last year (1,462 to 1,523), they are only gaining yards at 4.2 a carry, which is slightly less than last year. Mikel Leshoure has the most carries on the team, and while he has been valuable in the red zone, his struggles elsewhere are apparent. He is averaging just 3.8 a carry and does not have a rush over 16 yards. A big part of his problem was on display on Sunday: his vision.
The Lions opened the second half down two scores and in desperate need of points. Finding themselves in a third-and-1, the offense put the ball in Leshoure's hands to pick up the first and avoid an early three-and-out.
The moment Leshoure gets the ball it's pretty clear where the hole is. The biggest concern is Stephen Peterman, who doesn't have great leverage on his guy and may compromise the intended hole. But there is nowhere else to go. The backside of the play has two unblocked players, while the left side of the play is too crowded to find a hole. Because of the unblocked players on the right, Leshoure cannot afford to hesitate. The design of the play is a quick, strong run up the middle -- a common design for short yardage downs.
Leshoure loses faith in the line and cuts to the outside. It appears the hole is very much there and Peterman has done a good job despite his poor positioning. Leshoure's cut in the backfield has allowed the backside defenders to catch him and Leshoure finds nothing to his left.
Fourth down. Punt. Missed opportunity No. 2,385 on the year.
Even on Leshoure's biggest run of the day, his hesitation might have cost him a much bigger play.
The design of the play is right between Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims. It appears there's also a hole between Sims and Jeff Backus. But if Leshoure heads there, Raiola will not have time nor space to get to the second level and take care of a linebacker.
Riley Reiff takes out the defensive end, while Gosder Cherilus easily takes care of a linebacker. The other linebacker tries to loop around to the right, leaving the original hole wide open. Leshoure can hit it immediately. Instead, he cuts in the backfield ...
... and does it again. Thankfully, he does eventually find the hole and almost breaks a huge run. But his hesitation has allowed the cornerback into the play.
He makes the shoestring tackle and prevents Leshoure from breaking a medium run into a huge one. Leshoure did a great job of eventually finding the hole, but if he would've found it without hesitation, he likely would have scored.
Many are calling for more carries for Joique Bell, and at this point, it's hard to disagree. However, maybe Leshoure needs to see these growing pains in the film room to fully develop into a game-changing back.