There is no doubt that the Detroit Lions are loaded at the running back position. The majority of the time and carries last year were distributed between Reggie Bush and Joique Bell and if all goes as expected, it should be the same in 2014. The Lions also have former second round pick Mikel Leshoure, who led the team in rushing in 2012 with 798 yards and nine touchdowns and the up and coming Theo Riddick.
With new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi bringing in a New Orleans Saints style offense with him, it’s quite possible that there may be enough touches to go around to get all four players involved. Bush did cross the 1,000 yard plateau last year, the first Lions player to do so since 2004. Bush also fumbled five times, losing four of those and had the highest dropped pass percentage of any player in the NFL. If those trends continue, the Lions will not hesitate to reduce Bush’s playing time.
Bell also fumbled four times last season, with three of those resulting in turnovers. It became an alarming trend for the team as a whole and was compounded by the fact that quarterback Matthew Stafford led the league with 12 total fumbles (though only four resulted in turnovers) and the Lions need to focus on ball protection in training camp. Bell did run for 650 yards last year and for the second straight season caught more than 50 passes out of the backfield. His production has far exceeded what the Lions expected out of the undrafted free agent from Benton Harbor, MI. As long as he holds onto the ball, the Lions expect great things from Bell.
Leshoure was not able to get onto the field last year. He managed just two rushes for nine yards and was inactive more often than not. His off field troubles certainly played a factor in him falling out of favor with the former coaching staff, as did the signing of Bush and the emergence of Bell. Leshoure expects to get more playing time this season and the Lions obviously felt he was worth holding onto, at least for now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran for a 200-300 yards this year, but I wouldn’t expect much more unless a rash of injuries occur in the Lions backfield.
Riddick seems to be the player that everyone expects a major increase in production and playing time for. A sixth round pick out of Notre Dame last season, everyone seems enamored with his performance in off season workouts and Bell went as far as to say that he expects Riddick to become a pro bowler. If Bush and Bell fumble and or falter this season, Riddick appears to be next in line. The Lions feel like no one can cover him out of the backfield when running pass routes and backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky feels that Riddick will play the Darren Sproles type role that the Saints utilized so well.
Bush should bounce back from an up and down first season with the Lions. He showed what he’s capable of and doesn’t seem to have slowed down any yet from his college days. The complimentary styles of Bush and Bell should continue to productive and barring injury, they should be very productive in 2014. What remains to be seen is what Riddick and Leshoure do, but regardless, the Lions are very deep at running back.