Lions offense could look a lot like the Saints' with a healthy Best and Leshoure

Posted Jan 11, 2012

The Saints offense is the gold standard in the NFL right now, but it's not just quarterback Drew Brees and his collection of talented receivers that make the Saints so dominant on offense.

They had the league's sixth-ranked rushing offense to pair with the NFL's No. 1 passing attack during the regular season.

Running backs Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas gave the Saints balance on offense and the ability to attack teams on the ground, too.

The Lions are hoping they have a similar recipe for success next season when Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure return to the field.

"Those guys will give us a big boost," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said in a Sirius NFL Radio interview Tuesday.

"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."

The Lions' plan for a balanced attack this season went by the wayside when Leshoure tore his Achilles in training camp and Best didn't play again after suffering his second concussion of the season in Week 6.

"We threw it a little bit more, but we can throw it," Schwartz said at Monday's press conference. "But that being said, it will be good to be able to get those guys back."

Best spoke to the media Monday and said he hasn't had any concussion symptoms since being cleared for physical activity.

"I'm doing everything now that I would be if I was playing," Best said. "Obviously, no contact, but that's the only difference right now.

"Right now I'm just focusing on getting back on the field. That just means staying in shape and getting ready for when our offseason program picks up and I'll be ready to go with the rest of the guys."

Best said he had no concerns about the concussions moving forward.

Like Best, Leshoure isn't ready to get on the football field just yet, but he is on right on schedule with his recovery, according to Schwartz.

"He's certainly not ready to go carry the ball right now, but we expect when we're starting our offseason program that he'll be with the rest of the team," he said of Leshoure.

Kevin Smith provided a boost to the Lions run game at times this season but they still relied heavily on their passing attack.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford proved quite capable of handling the load --- the Lions offense scored the fourth-most points in the NFL this season --- but a dual-threat attack like the Saints have has to ultimately be the goal for the Lions.

"(It will) be nice to be able to slam Leshoure in there in short-yardage situations and have a good power running back, not just in short-yardage," Schwartz said.

"One thing we talk about is Calvin (Johnson) affecting coverage. Jahvid Best affects a lot of coverage also because he is a tough matchup for a lot of linebackers, so teams that want to play man, two-man, and give space inside, Jahvid is a guy that give them a lot of problems.

"We see it with the Saints. Sproles gives you a lot the same problems, and as much as Calvin frees up coverage, we have other guys that do the same thing, including Jahvid. The more weapons the better and certainly both of those guys I would consider weapons."