MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara's Final Thoughts: Joique Bell is no longer considered just a good story

Posted Dec 16, 2012

There is no mystery formula for how playing time is awarded. Good plays lead to more playing time.

GLENDALE, Ariz. –Running backs, quarterback sacks, sad sacks and matchups as kickoff approaches for today’s Lions-Cardinals game at University of Phoenix Stadium:

It’s a sign of Joique Bell’s progression at running back that he no longer can be considered just a good story.

He has become a good running back for the Lions, gradually enhancing his value to the offense and adding to his workload.

For the first time this season, Bell took more than half the snaps at tailback in last week’s 27-20 loss at Green Bay. How the playing time is divided between Bell and Leshoure in today’s game remains to be seen, but Bell has continued to make a positive impression.

There is no mystery formula for how playing time is awarded. Good plays lead to more playing time.

Against Green Bay, Bell played 43 of the 78 offensive plays – 51 percent – while Leshoure was in for 31 plays and 37 percent.

Both rushed for 49 yards. Bell did it on 12 carries. Leshoure had 49. Bell also had five catches for 47 yards. Leshoure had no receptions.

A lot has been made of how Bell made the Lions this season after bouncing around the NFL the previous two seasons, spending most of his time on practice squads after a sensational career at Wayne State, a Division II power in Detroit.

“He’s produced when we’ve asked him,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “One play in the passing game, he might be in on a third down and he gets a first down. He wins his matchup. You put him in in the fourth quarter to run the ball, and he’s able to run the ball effectively and produce when you put him in.

“When a guy produces within his role, I think he’s going to earn more playing time. And that’s what he’s been able to do.”

Leshoure has started all 11 games after sitting out the first two because of a suspension. There is no indication that he won’t be the starter for the rest of the season.

Sack time: There are no betting odds on this, but I’d take the over for Cliff Avril to get the two sacks he needs today to go over his career-high of 11 sacks last season. He has 9.5 for the season. Avril has a streak of four games with at least one sack and five sacks in that span.

The Cardinals are ripe for him to extend the streak. They’ve allowed 51 sacks and rank 31st in sacks allowed per play.

The 51 sacks have come on 555 drop-backs – 504 passes thrown, plus 51 sacks.

By comparison, Matthew Stafford has been sacked 26 times on 605 drop-backs – 579 attempts, plus the 26 sacks.

For both teams, the drop-backs do not include scrambles on running plays.

On the line: Even with injuries that could leave them without two tackles in their defensive-line rotation, the Lions should be eager to bounce back from how they were manhandled by the Packers on the drive to the clinching TD last week.

Running behind a patched up offensive line, three nondescript backs hammered the Lions for 59 yards on seven straight plays to score the go-ahead TD.

Corey Williams is on injured reserve with a bad knee, and Nick Fairley is doubtful with an injured shoulder that kept him from practicing all week.

It shouldn’t matter who plays on the interior line against the Cardinals.

They’ve  been hurting up front and at running back all season. Adam Snyder is likely to be the third starter at center. He has started at right guard all year. The starting tackles, Nate Potter and Bobby Massie, are rookies. Massie, a fourth-round draft pick, has started all 13 games. Potter, a seventh-rounder, has four starts.

Dis-Cards: Coach Ken Whisenhunt has been dealt a bad hand in the offensive backfield because of injuries, but he  has to play what he’s been dealt.

With Kevin Kolb out with an injury, there is no quarterback of the future – or the present.

Rookie Ryan Lindley has no TD passes and five interceptions, and will make his third start. John Skelton obviously hasn’t been the answer. He’s been benched in favor of Lindley.

There’s no help from the running game.

Beanie Wells, a fourth-year back from Ohio State and Arizona’s first-round pick in 2009, said fans would see the “vintage” Beanie Wells when he returned from toe and injuries three weeks ago.

Apparently, it’s a vintage that hasn’t been uncorked. In the three games since his return, he has 88 yards on 38 carries and an average of 2.3 yards per carry.

Matchup: The Lions should be able to run the ball against the Cardinals. Everyone else has.

The Cardinals rank 30th in defending the run (140.5 yards per game) and 20th in average per carry (4.4 yards).

Arizona prediction: Kent Somers, who covers the Cardinals for the Arizona Republic, predicts the Cardinals will end their nine-game losing streak with a 20-17 victory.

The Cardinals have scored only 23 points in their last three games combined.