Young Detroit Lions have sparked team's turnaround


Young Detroit Lions have sparked team's turnaround

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions are getting key contributions from players they've drafted the last two years.

Second-year pros Mikel Leshoure and Titus Young, along with rookies Ryan Broyles and Riley Reiff have helped Detroit (4-4) win three of its last four games to bounce back from a rough start this season.

``Those guys have taken advantage of the opportunity, that's what this league is about,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Wednesday. ``When you get an opportunity, you need to prove it. There's a lot of circumstances, whether it's injuries or whatever, that you get your chance to get on the field. ``

Leshoure has made the biggest impact, giving the team a desperately needed power running back to help the pass-happy offense strike a balance. He became the franchise's first player since 1934 to run for three touchdowns in a half in last week's 31-14 win at Jacksonville and has run for 375 yards in six games since being suspended for the first two weeks of the season.

Leshoure said violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy last summer and becoming a first-time father last week have helped him grow up fast.

``I learned a lot from my situation in the offseason, it made me a better man,'' he said. ``And having a son, it has made me an even better man. I've learned to be smart by understanding my surroundings and to put myself in good situations that I don't have to second-guess.''

Leshoure's play has gotten the attention of the slumping Minnesota Vikings (5-4) and their defensive-minded head coach Leslie Frazier.

``He's running with authority,'' Frazier said. ``He's really making people miss at times. He's able to run through contact. He's really given them something in the backfield. He's an elusive runner with some power.''

Young and Broyles are providing the offense with finesse.

Since receiver Nate Burleson broke his right leg last month, Young and Broyles have made the most of the double- and triple-coverage schemes teams use to slow down Calvin Johnson.

In the last three games, Young has 17 catches for 201 yards and two TDs while Broyles has 12 receptions for 140 yards and two scores. Broyles was brought along slowly by Detroit because he tore a ligament in his left knee during his ninth game as a senior last year at Oklahoma.

``It was a little frustrating, but they did a good job of holding me back,'' he said. ``It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It's Week 9 and I'm full of energy because I've really only played in three games.''

Detroit drafted Reiff 23rd overall this year for depth, but he has been ready enough to start three games - including the last two - as an extra offensively lineman that has basically become a blocking tight end.

The Lions have scored 10 times on the ground - their highest total through eight games since 1990 - and Reiff has been on the field for their last five TDs rushing.

``He's given our run game an incredible boost,'' Schwartz said. ``The offensive line has blocked very well and he's a big part of that.''

NFL teams routinely select players and quickly put them on the field with the expectation that they'll produce, but Detroit wasn't one of those teams in the previous decade.

Dominic Raiola knew that all too well.

Detroit drafted him in 2001 and the center saw draft selections - such as quarterback Joey Harrington along with receivers Charles Rogers and Mike Williams - come and go without proving they were worth being high picks.

Raiola credits Schwartz along with general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand for changing the trend and finding players who can produce.

``It's night and day,'' he said. ``You can go look at the drafts and see how different it is.''

NOTES: Young, Johnson, S Louis Delmas and DT Corey Williams didn't practice Wednesday because of knee ailments, DE Cliff Avril was held out of the workout because of a back injury and S Amari Spievey is still out because of a concussion. ... The Lions have decided to end Chris Greenwood's season before it began, keeping the rookie CB on the physically unable to perform list for the year after he had abdominal surgery.


Online: and


Follow Larry Lage on Twitter:

Quick Links

Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. Williams also reportedly has interest from Detroit.


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

Quick Links

What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

USA Today Sports Images

What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

Bradley Beal has been indispensable for the Wizards this season with John Wall having missed 33 of their 70 games, or nearly half of their schedule so far. Beal's numbers are up in several categories from last season and he earned his first All-Star selection as a result.

Becoming an NBA All-Star is very difficult. Usually, about six guards per conference are picked each year. Being All-NBA is even more exclusive, as only six guards are selected from the entire league.

Wall has done it before and Beal may be in position to accomplish the feat himself this season. As of now, Beal could be considered on the bubble for third-team All-NBA.


It is an extremely competitive race and there are several locks to earn the honors. At this point, guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook should get in easily. But after that, the next four spots are hard to sort out.

Based on his numbers, Damian Lillard of the Blazers should be a shoe-in. He is the best player on the third-place team in the Western Conference and is second among all NBA guards in points per game (26.6). He is also averaging 6.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He has already been All-NBA twice in his career and should get his third nod after this season.

DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors is probably the next-most likely to get in. He has led the top team in the Eastern Conference, was an All-Star starter in February and got his first All-NBA selection last year.

After those is where it gets interesting. The reason why is injuries. Stephen Curry in any other year would be a guarantee for All-NBA, but as of now he has played just 50 games. Consider that the NBA requires a player to appear in 58 games or more, or 70 percent of his team's games, to qualify for statistical leaderboards. 


Curry has returned to practice, but due to health and possibly rest down the stretch of the season, there is a chance he doesn't hit the 58-game threshold. That may present an interesting question for the voters.

Kyrie Irving of the Celtics is also hurt. He has played in 60 games with 11 left on Boston's schedule. The same goes for Jimmy Butler of the Timberwolves. He is rehabbing a torn meniscus and currently has only played 56 games. 

Chris Paul of the Rockets has appeared in 53 games due to injuries. Though his numbers could put him in the All-NBA conversation, Devin Booker of the Suns has played in just 54 games.

If injuries do preclude Curry in particular from getting in, then the door could be open the door for Beal. He would then have to beat out guys like Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, Irving, Butler and others.

Setting aside the most likely three to get All-NBA - Harden, Westbrook and Lillard - and Curry, let's take a look at how Beal stacks up statistically to the rest of the pack. 

Bradley Beal - 23.3 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 spg, 46.3 FG%, 37.4 3PT%

DeMar DeRozan - 23.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 46.1 FG%, 32.4 3PT%

Victor Oladipo - 23.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 spg, 47.1 FG%, 36.6 3PT%

Kyrie Irving - 24.4 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 spg, 49.1 FG%, 40.8 3PT%

Jimmy Butler - 22.2 ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.4 rpg, 1.9 spg, 47.3 FG%, 35.6 3PT%

Devin Booker - 24.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 43.2 FG%, 38.3 3PT%

Chris Paul - 18.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 spg, 45.9 FG%, 38.5 3PT%


As you see, not a whole lot is separating those guys. It may come down to team performance and other factors.

Working in Beal's favor is that he's been the most durable of the bunch. He has played in every one of the Wizards' games this season.

Beal has also helped keep his team in contention despite Wall's absence. The Wizards are on pace for 47 wins, not far off their 49 victories last year, and Beal has been the biggest reason.

But Irving's case is helped similarly by all the injuries in Boston, including to Gordan Hayward. He has been the best player on the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.

Oladipo has led the Pacers to an impressive season despite not having another All-Star in the lineup. DeRozan, Beal, Irving and Butler have better supporting casts.


Say injuries do work against Curry, Paul, Irving and Booker. And assume DeRozan is safely in as the fourth guy behind Harden, Westbrook and Lillard. That could mean Beal gets in alongside Oladipo.

If Curry, Paul or Irving get in despite missing double-digit games, that would probably bump Beal out of the mix. Oladipo has slightly better numbers and has drawn lots of acclaim for being the best player on a surprise Pacers team and he's no guarantee himself.

Beal has 12 games left to prove his case and clearly a lot of factors are in play, but the idea of him making All-NBA for the first time is not out of the question.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!