Training Camp Preview: running backs

Posted Jul 21, 2014

The Lions return one of the best running back duos last year in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, but can someone else make an impact too?

On the roster: Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Mikel Leshoure, Steven Miller and George Winn.

Key loss: None

Making the cut: Bush, Bell and Riddick

On the bubble: Leshoure, Miller and Winn

Best competition: Can Riddick steal carries from Bush and Bell?

Bush and Bell were one of the best running back tandems in the NFL last year. The pair became the first duo in NFL history to each record at least 500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving.

Bush became the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Lions since 2004 (Kevin Jones) and the Lions won all three games last season in which he ran for at least 100 yards.

But all we’ve heard from both coaches and teammates this offseason is how well Riddick has played and how he's carving out a role for himself.

Riddick has looked good this spring, but let’s not forget it was in shorts. Let’s wait until the pads come on to truly evaluate this second-year back from Notre Dame.

Let’s also not forget Bell was absent all spring rehabbing an injury. Riddick benefitted from getting those reps. Come training camp, Bell will be back. Running backs coach Curtis Modkins knows exactly what he has in Bell, a tough runner with terrific balance and soft hands.

The Lions are going to run the ball more than they have in the past under Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi and Riddick should benefit from that. He will have a role, but it still looks like it'll be a complement to Bush and Bell, at least for now.

Reggie Bush said this offense reminded him a lot of the one he ran in New Orleans to begin his career. Looking at the numbers, the Saints did have four players carry the football at least 53 times last year.

Untitled Document
2013 Stats
Reggie Bush 14 223 1,006 4.5 4 54 506 3
Joique Bell 16 66 650 3.9 8 53 547 0
Theo Riddick 14 9 25 2.8 1 4 8 0
Mikel Leshoure 3 2 9 4.5 0 0 0 0
+Steven Miller 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
+George Winn 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
+did not play in 2013

Twentyman’s take: The Lions have a good thing going with Bush, Bell and Riddick. There is a nice combination of different skill sets there and they have a terrific offensive line in front of them. The additions of Golden Tate and Eric Ebron should allow them even more room to operate.

Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush (Photo: Detroit Lions)

The passing game has gotten a lot of attention this offseason, but make no mistake about it, the Lions are going to run the football. They’re going to play a fullback and we’ll see some more smash-mouth football from this team than we’ve seen in a while.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of role Leshoure can carve out for himself. General manager Martin Mayhew is on record saying he wants the former second-round pick to have a role and help this team this year.

Leshoure is a tough runner, and if he’s regained the step he lost after tearing his Achilles tendon in 2011 (he told this offseason he thinks he has), he can help. It’s a contract year for Leshoure, so he should be properly motivated to make his mark.

The Lions are going to keep a fullback this year, so it’s uncertain how the numbers will ultimately fall and how many running backs make the final 53.

It makes sense that four running backs and a fullback would make it, but who knows how the number will fall in a month.

By the numbers:

32: Rushing touchdowns recorded by the Lions since the start of the 2012 season, which ranks sixth in the NFL.

9: Fumbles recorded by Bush and Bell in 2013. They lost seven of those.

25.9: Percent of Bell’s rushes last resulted in a first down (43 of 166). His percentage was the seventh highest in the NFL.


“For the running backs, a lot of routes and certain things aren’t tagged for us like they were in the past offense. So it’s a little bit more difficult, but nevertheless, it’s a great offense.”

-- Running back Reggie Bush on the new offense