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Monday, August 8, 2011
Lions can overcome Mikel LeShoure injury

By Kevin Seifert

Here is the post-lockout litany for the Detroit Lions:
Monday brought the cruelest blow of all: Rookie running back Mikel LeShoure ruptured an Achilles tendon and is lost for the season.

Jahvid Best
The Lions will have to lean more heavily on Jahvid Best in the run game with Mikel Leshoure lost for the season.
We have two choices here: Either get caught up in the Lions' ridiculously poor fortunes or take a rational look at what's happened here. (If that's possible.) Because if the Green Bay Packers taught us anything in 2010, it's that a rash of injuries is only debilitating if the players left behind can't step up.

Of the above list, only Backus is irreplaceable. And the last I heard, the Lions are fully expecting him to be ready to start the regular season.

Otherwise, the Lions -- as currently constituted -- have the resources to compensate. Will they compensate as effectively as the Packers did last season? I'm not sure about that. But even without Fairley, the Lions can use the same defensive tackle rotation they used to major success last season. Cherilus is their top choice to play right tackle, but remember, he wasn't on the field during the Lions' four-game winning streak to end 2010.

Although they would love Young at full speed, they can still offer quarterback Matthew Stafford an array of targets in the passing game if for some reason Young isn't ready to begin the regular season.

And in LeShoure, the Lions had a luxury enjoyed by few teams: A hard-hitting bowling bowl whose skills perfectly complemented the player he was set to rotate with in Jahvid Best. The Lions will have to adjust their playbook, but there is no reason to turn your nose up at a rotation of Best, a healthy Morris and/or another veteran who could shake loose once NFL teams start cutting back their rosters.

I realize that much of Lions Fever has been based on the team reinforcing several strengths into potentially elite forces this offseason. The Lions' hope for dramatic improvement seemingly rested in Fairley making the Lions' defensive line elite and LeShoure turning a solid running game into one that was at least above average. Otherwise, the Lions would be the same team that went 6-10 last season, right?

Not necessarily. First of all, Stafford has the potential to elevate the Lions' passing game from productive to dangerous on his own. And as we've discussed several times before, coach Jim Schwartz impressed some valuable lessons about competing and finishing games last December.

Our friends over at AccuScore, who use computer simulations to predict NFL outcomes, see the Lions as a 7-win team with LeShoure and Fairley. Without them, the average computer simulation of the Lions' 2011 season ends with six victories.

Call me a greedy optimist, but I look at the Lions roster and still see a team that can do what we've been discussing for some time. This Lions team, as currently constituted, has the capacity to challenge for the playoffs. Frankly, its biggest obstacle is the lure of a self-initiated funk. The quickest way for adversity to bring you down is to believe it will.

"We have some work to do there," Schwartz said. "[We need to] change plans a little bit. But there's a lot covered between now and the beginning of the regular season. We'll work through it the best we can."

To be clear, no NFL team wants to see an injury list as long as the Lions'. But this one doesn't have to be a death knell for the 2011 Lions, and it won't be -- unless they allow it to. They might not be the 2010 Packers, but they don't have to be the Same Old Lions, either.