Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell will still play big roles in 2013

Posted Mar 26, 2013

The signing of Reggie Bush instantly makes the offense more explosive, but it doesn't mean there's no longer a role for Mikel Leshoure or Joique Bell

The Detroit Lions added a dynamic playmaker to their backfield this offseason in Reggie Bush.

He is the speed element and big-play threat the team lacked a season ago when they finished tied for last in the NFL with only four explosive runs of 20-plus yards.

The signing of Bush instantly makes the offense more explosive, but it doesn't mean Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell have lost their roles within the offense.

Joique Bell
RB Joique Bell

Leshoure started 14 games last season and had 798 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, leading the team in both categories. He also chipped in 214 receiving yards.

Bell emerged as one of 2012's better storylines, appearing in all 16 games and finishing with 414 rushing yards (5.0 average) and three touchdowns. His 485 receiving yards was third among all running backs in the NFL.

"We have a lot of confidence in both of those guys (Bell and Leshoure)," Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "Both of those guys are going to be good players that we continue to move forward with, and they all have unique skill sets.

"Joique runs the ball a little bit different than Mikel, but they both run a little bit different and present different things than Reggie, and I think that combination of guys is good.

"People like to say running back by committee and things like that, but each guy will have a role. There will be plenty of touches on the offense for everybody."

The Lions moved up in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft so they could select Leshoure.

At the time, Schwartz and Co. had a very specific plan for how they wanted to use his skill set as runner in tandem with Jahvid Best, whom the team had moved back into the first round to select one year prior.

Unfortunately, that plan never materialized. The two have never played a game together as a result of injuries.

Now there is a new plan. It's been altered a bit from the original version, but it still features the combination of unique styles that Bush, Leshoure and Bell all posess.

The plan is to combine all three styles into a unique package the Lions can throw at opponents.

Without Best in 2012, stretch runs, toss sweeps and edge plays were missing from the Lions' repertoire.

Bush brings those elements back into Scott Linehan's offense. Leshoure and Bell will continue to bring the between-the-tackles style.

There is also the potential for multiple running backs in the backfield.

"We went into last year with that as part of our package (Best and Leshoure on the field together)," Schwartz said.

"It's really too early to be able to tell, but that is something we can do. A guy like Reggie Bush, you can align him as a wide receiver, so you can keep two backs in the backfield with those guys, or you can put one back there and he can still run and try to get a match-up with a running back against a safety or a linebacker. It gives your offense a lot of different opportunities."

Enough opportunities, says Schwartz, that no offensive player should be worried about lack of touches.

"We have 1,000 offensive plays," he said. "There's 1,000 touches in our offense every year. There's more than enough for everybody to get the football, and you're going to need it.

"There's teams that have five wide receivers. Look at Green Bay last year. They lost (Greg) Jennings for a good stretch of time. They also lost Jordy Nelson for a game or two with a hamstring ... but they were able to keep grinding because they have all those guys.

"New Orleans has a big stable of running backs. They had guys that were inactive, but eventually you're going to need them, and when they are (active), they will be able to go in and make plays.

The Lions ranked 23rd rushing the football last year and set an NFL record for most pass attempts in a season. If they're going to lower either of those numbers it will be a collective effort from all three backs blending different styles.

"I see three quality backs," Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "I see guys with different skill sets, so I see all those guys playing a critical role in our offense."