Notebook: Lions Run Game Sees Big Potential

Lions RB Kevin Smith (getty images)

After a week three win, Detroit's run game -- headed by Kevin Smith -- is preparing to explode. More news and notes inside ...

The Lions' rushing attack has ranked in the bottom three of the NFL each of the past three years, but running back Kevin Smith sees progress and potential.

"I really don't like to say stuff to you all, because you all blow it out of proportion, but I really do feel like we could have a top-five rushing offense in the league," Smith told reporters. "And I'm speaking generally.

"That's how much pride I have in myself. I feel like I can be a top-five back, anywhere in the top five. Our offensive line has the same type of confidence. Now it's about us going out every week and being consistent and getting better."

In the opener at New Orleans, Smith averaged a career-low 1.3 yards per carry, with 20 yards on 15 carries. He called it probably the worst performance of his young career.

But the next game against Minnesota, he rushed for 83 yards on 24 carries. And against Washington, he rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries before leaving the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.

His career high is 112 yards. Had he remained in the game, he would have had a chance to surpass that easily.

"Kevin was getting to the second level," coach Jim Schwartz said. "I'd like to see him maybe break one of those tackles, really be able to get loose on one, but he was running the ball extremely well. It was a combination of a lot of things: good scheme, the offensive line and then Kevin's run skills."

Smith said the shoulder injury wasn't too serious and he hopes to play Sunday at Chicago.

"I'm not ready to play if we had to play a game tomorrow, and that's just probably because of the general soreness," Smith said. "But I'm 22 years old. I usually heal pretty fast. I don't have any bone damage or anything like that."

Asked if it was just a bruise, Smith said: "I don't know yet. I'm about to go walk in there and find out. I haven't gotten my results yet. But they say I'm not out of it, so that's a good sign."

Smith said his goal was to return to practice Wednesday. He said he needs at least two days of practice to feel prepared to play at a high level - and he wants to play at the highest level.

Until Sunday's 19-14 victory over Washington, Smith had never experienced an NFL victory. The Lions had gone 0-18 since drafting him in the third round last year. But he was far from satisfied.

"I was happy to get the monkey off my back, but he's still behind us, clawing," Smith said Monday. "We have to take this in stride as motivation. We still left points on the field. We still left yards on the ground on the field. So we have to go back and review that. Now it's important that when you win a game that you still learn from your mistakes."

Player Notes

  • QB Matthew Stafford didn't throw an interception Sunday against Washington, after throwing five in his first two NFL games. He avoided picks even though he kept slinging it downfield, finishing 21-for-36 for 241 yards and a touchdown. But his highlight was a scramble: a 21-yarder on third-and-13 that set up a 21-yard TD pass on the next play.
  • RB Kevin Smith was on his way to surpassing his career high of 112 rushing yards, with 101 yards on 16 carries, when he left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Smith hopes to play Sunday at Chicago. His goal is to return to practice Wednesday.
  • WR Calvin Johnson caught five passes for 49 yards and rushed once for nine yards. Defenses continue to key on him, and he has yet to have a breakout game this season.
  • WR Bryant Johnson benefited from the attention paid to Calvin Johnson. He was targeted 11 times and caught four passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. The Lions need him to emerge as a playmaking threat on the opposite side.
  • TE Brandon Pettigrew threw up on the field after taking a hit in the stomach, but he said he was OK. He was targeted four times and caught two passes for 27 yards. The Lions hope he can do much more in the coming weeks.
  • CB Will Allen replaced Phillip Buchanon as a starter, and the move was based on performance. Coach Jim Schwartz was happy with how Allen played against the Redskins.
  • LB DeAndre Levy drew positive reviews after his first NFL start. He made big plays on third and fourth down as the Lions stuffed the Redskins on the goal line in the first quarter.
  • DE Jason Hunter continued to make his presence felt with a sack. The Lions have been pleased with the pressure he has put on quarterbacks from the left side.
  • LB Larry Foote led the Lions in tackles with nine. He has been a positive force in the locker room, as a two-time Super Bowl champion in Pittsburgh who wants a winner in his hometown of Detroit.
  • KR Aaron Brown averaged only 16.75 yards per kickoff return the past two games, after busting an 87-yard return in his NFL debut. Schwartz wants more production.

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