Lions hoping the "burst" comes back to Mikel Leshoure's game

Posted Aug 6, 2013

Confident his legs are back under him again, Leshoure is out to prove why the Lions made him a second-round pick in 2011

Mikel Leshoure admits that the explosion and the "burst" wasn't there for him last year, but the third-year running back says it had nothing to do with being only one year removed from an Achilles tendon tear.

Leshoure racked up 798 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games in 2012, but his average of 3.7 yards per carry ranked 35th among all rushers with at least 100 carries.

"There were times last year when I really just didn't feel the explosion and the burst and that's just because I didn't have my legs," he said. "I was getting healthier, but still didn't have them up under me. It's a timing thing."

He said it had nothing to do with the Achilles injury, which most have suspected.

After serving a two-game suspension to begin last season, Leshoure made his NFL debut Week 3 in Tennessee and carried the ball 26 times for 100 yards and a score. He suffered a hamstring injury toward the end of that game and said it lingered with him all season.

Confident his legs are back under him again, he's out to prove why the Lions made him a second-round pick in 2011.

"I feel lighter and feel a little bit more of a burst," he said after practice Tuesday. "I don't know if that's from the weight (he's dropped five pounds and is currently at 229 pounds) or the fact that it's a year under my belt and I have my legs back."

Leshoure has looked a step faster this training camp than he did during the regular season last year, but still has to prove he can be the same player he looked like he was going to be before the Achilles tendon injury. Those first two weeks in training camp before the injury, he looked very good.

The Lions needed the big-play threat from the run game back in their offense and went out and signed veteran running back Reggie Bush. In Bush, the Lions have a back whose game is based on speed and big-play potential.

They now have a similar combo to what they thought they were getting in Jahvid Best and Leshoure -- two players with unique skill sets who could compliment each other.

With Bush on board, Leshoure can go back to doing some of the things he's more natural at.

"He's a big guy that has a lot of ability," Lions running backs coach and run-game coordinator Curtis Modkins said of Leshoure. "I like his skill set.

"I think he can be a good in-between-the-tackles guy. That doesn't mean he can't be an outside-the-tackles guy, too. I like them all to be well rounded."

But it starts in between the tackles for Leshoure.

"Inside the tackles is where I make my money," Leshoure admitted. "It's been a big part of my game and that's what I've been used for a lot, especially in college and since I've been here.

"A lot of your inside-the-tackle runs are designed for you to then make a move or jump cut. You can't just be a back that's going downhill the whole time. You have to be able to make those jump cuts."

That's where Leshoure was lacking last year.

He wasn't able to make that move and didn't have that burst to turn a moderate gain into a big one. It's the next part of his game he has to showcase. The ability to get up the field between the tackles and then bounce it outside or make defenders miss. If he does that, and Bush is the big threat he's proven to be throughout his career, and Joique Bell continues to be an all-around back, the Lions run game can be better.

"I'm very eager," Leshoure said of getting to the preseason and showing that some of his burst is back. "I just want to get out there and make some plays."