Lions running backs out to prove the team doesn't have depth issues

Posted Aug 12, 2012

There was likely to be more than a few people who did a double take after looking at the Lions' total rushing yards and passing yards from Friday night's box score. It wasn't a misprint; the Lions did indeed rush for more yards (198) than they passed for (170) in a 19-17 loss to the Browns.

The Lions have put more emphasis on having a balanced rushing attack this year after they were unable to take advantage of situations last year when opposing defenses gave them opportunities to run the football.

"In order to be where we want to be, we know that we have to run the ball and that starts with the offensive line and the running backs," Lions running back Keiland Williams said after Friday's game.

"That's definitely something we knew at the end of last year and it's definitely something we've put a lot of emphasis on during camp this year."

So far so good for the Lions after one preseason game. Though it is, in fact, just one preseason game – and a game without their top two running backs in Jahvid Best (concussions) and Mikel Leshoure (hamstring) – the Lions came out with a game plan to run the football against the Browns and they were able to execute that plan.

Joique Bell (89 yards), Keiland Williams (71), Kevin Smith (28) and Stefan Logan (10) combined for 198 yards on the ground and a 6.0 yards per attempt average.

"Those two guys, I think, did a good job," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Williams and Bell.

"Keiland went in and creased a couple and so did Joique and they were running, generally, against bad boxes, meaning they were eight-man fronts, which are difficult to run against. But both of those guys ran hard, both of them fought for extra yardage, both of them did a nice job. Keiland in the first half and then spot-duty in the second and then Joique in the second half."

Depth at running back has been a hot-button issue for the Lions during the first two weeks of training camp with Best yet to be cleared for contact and Leshoure's hamstring injury lingering into it's second week.

The big question surrounding the running back position is whether the Lions needed to make a move and bring in another back to add talent and depth to the unit.

The Lions expect Leshoure to be back soon, but still need some questions to be answered in terms of their depth.

Friday was just one performance - and the Lions aren't going to be convinced they've solved any questions about depth after one preseason game - but Smith, Williams and Bell going out and being able to sustain drives on the ground and average over 5.0 yards per carry is a good sign moving forward for the Lions.

"Of course we were trying to prove a point that we have a lot of running backs here and we have a lot of good running backs," Bell said. "There's been a lot of talk about the running game in the past, but I promise you that's going to change this year."