Joique Bell continues to prove his worth for Lions

Posted Dec 26, 2013

Running back Joique Bell, 27, will be a restricted free agent this offseason and it would be wise for the Lions to keep his services any way possible

Reggie Bush was the marquee free agent acquisition for the Detroit Lions this offseason, signing a four-year, $16 million contract to be the missing piece to the offense.

Bush has been very good for most of the season. He stands to become the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004 (Kevin Jones) if he records 26 more rushing yards this week in Minnesota.

His fumbling issues, however, have been a problem.

Joique BellRB Joique Bell (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Bush lost his fourth fumble of the year in Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. A fumble the Giants turned into a touchdown in a 23-20 overtime win.

The four lost fumbles are a career high for Bush, who lost three in 2007 in his second NFL season with New Orleans.

"It's very tough," Bush said after the game. "As a playmaker and as a running back, that's a cardinal sin, to turn the ball over and to fumble the ball.”

After the fumble on Sunday, Joique Bell played a more predominant role in the offense. To Bell’s credit, he was the more effective runner and that’s why he finished with 22 more snaps than Bush in the game.

“Reggie was still in there, but Joique was running well,” head coach Jim Schwartz said after the game. “Joique was strong and running well. He made a lot of plays for us. It had nothing really to do with Reggie fumbling. It had more to do with the game that Joique was having and where we were.”

Bell finished with 154 total yards (91 rushing, 63 receiving) to Bush’s 44 (34 rushing, 10 receiving).

Bell now has 619 rushing yards on the season and 522 receiving. After catching 10 passes Sunday, Bell is tied with Bush for the second-most receptions on the team behind Calvin Johnson with 49. Bell also leads the team with eight rushing touchdowns.

The two-back tandem with Bush and Bell has been a good thing for the Lions offense all season. It's really given them a 1A and 1B option in their backfield.

Bell will be a restricted free agent this offseason, so the Lions will have to decide which "tender" to offer him (first, second or original round) or possibly negotiate a longer-term deal as well.

After bouncing around from team-to-team and practice squad-to-practice squad early in his career, Bell has found a home in Detroit. The Lions have also found a valuable commodity to pair with Bush in their backfield and should do everything they can this offseason to assure it stays that way in 2014.