Linehan excited at the prospects of getting Best and Leshoure back

Posted Jan 27, 2012

The Lions had the No. 4 scoring offense in the NFL last season, as well as the league's fourth-ranked passing attack, which averaged more than 300 yards per game.

It's a great offense led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, but according to Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, it can be even better in 2012.

“If we put together a season where we have all the tools in the passing game we had this year, and put it together with Jahvid (Best) and Mikel (Leshoure), I think that’s the next step,” Linehan said Friday.

The Lions ranked 29th in rushing this season and failed to run the ball with any serious impact after rookie running back Mikel Leshoure tore an Achilles tendon in training camp and Best didn’t play after Week 6 because of concussions.

“It’ll be another way to beat teams that are double covering Calvin or playing two-man to take our passing game away,” Linehan said. “We need to have that go-to player in the backfield and I really feel we have that, it’s just been injuries that have kept us away from that.”

Linehan said he had big plans for both Leshoure and Best heading into last season, but was particularly disheartened by the loss of Leshoure so early.

“He was the one guy at training camp, before he got injured, that I was the most excited about,” Linehan said. “He really was.”

It was easy to see how much the Lions valued Leshoure in the face of head coach Jim Schwartz at the post-practice media session the day Leshoure tore his Achilles tendon back in August. The disappointment was hard to hide on Schwartz’s face.

“It was a hit, obviously, that was compounded with Jahvid being out,” Linehan said. “We really don’t know (how much of a hit). I think we’ll know next year. I believe it was fairly significant because we know, in a lot of ways, what we got. After another year I’ll be able to tell you. We had a lot of plans for how we were going to utilize Jahvid and Mikel and how we were going to use those guys together.”

Linehan is getting excited once again about the possibilities on offense next year, seeing Leshoure and Best on schedule in their recovery. It might be time to dust off that old training camp playbook from last year.

“If you were going to map out an unstoppable-type offense, it’s one that can hit you from both directions,” Linehan said. “Our passing game is going to continue to improve and its pretty effective now. If we can get to the point where we can do damage both ways, which I believe we will, because we have the personnel for it, then, I think it’s really hard to defend us.”

After the season, Schwartz said the offense has the potential to look a lot like the Saints’ with Leshoure and Best on board. Leshoure playing the role of Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas and Best being the Lions' version of Darren Sproles.

The Saints had the league’s No. 1 passing offense and were No. 6 in rushing.

“I’d like to think we have our own personality,” Linehan said. “Although, I wouldn’t be offended to be compared to the Saints because, obviously, they’re one of the most prolific offenses ever.

“Implementing (Best and Leshoure) into everything else we have already is exciting,” Linehan said. “It’s almost like adding players (via the draft or free agency) but you know what you’re going to have instead of hoping what you get."