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Young Detroit Lions have sparked team's turnaround

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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.

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The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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