In what will be an ongoing series, I will be taking a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster and examine where things stand, who has the best shot at making the final 53-man roster, and whether or not we improved in this area. Next up, running back.
Bush brought some needed explosiveness to the Lions last year and ever since the unfortunate end to Jahvid Best‘s career, Mayhew admitted that his biggest regret was not finding a replacement for him. Bush came in and made some big plays for the Lions, but he also had his ups and downs.
Bush was benched several times last year due to fumbles and/or drops, and actually had the highest drop rate out of any running back or wide receiver aside for Greg Little with 10 drops on 75 targets.
Bush will likely continue to be the premier running back for the Lions moving forward, but he’s going to need to work on securing the ball if he wants to maintain his touches.
Chances of making final roster: 100% (starting running back)
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Joique Bell may have been the most reliable option out of the backfield for the Lions last year. He is arguably the hardest working player on the team who happens to be a perfect compliment to Bush’s explosiveness. He’s a pesky and abrasive downhill runner that can also hurt you through the air.
Bell has been dealing with a nagging injury that he would not specify since last year, but he’s not worried about it. This probably won’t hurt his chances at making the final roster since he just signed a three-year contract extension this off-season, but it could open up an opportunity for a guy like Mikel Leshoure.
Chances of making final roster: 100% (#2 RB)
Last year, the Lions primarily rotated between two running backs in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. This year with Joe Lombardi starting from the Saints’ offensive playbook, it’s likely that we’ll see some different faces in the backfield from time to time.
Riddick is similar to Bush in that he can line up in the backfield, play slot receiver, and even play special teams if needed. He’s received a lot of praise from players and coaches recently, and it’s beginning to look like he may find a bigger role in this year’s offense.
Chances of making final roster: 90% (he will be a swiss army knife for the Lions)
Starting with a season ending achilles injury during his rookie year, and ending with being a healthy scratch for the majority of last year, Mikel Leshoure has had a rough start to his career.
Change couldn’t have come at a better time for Leshoure, and with a new coaching staff he’ll be able to start from a clean slate.
As I’ve said plenty of times before, you can expect to see a variety of players rotating in the backfield this season, and I strongly believe that Mikel Leshoure will have a place in this offense.
Chances of making final roster: 80% (4th running back, possibly used in short yardage situations)
Some may consider Montell Owens a fullback, but as of right now he’s being listed as a running back. The Lions signed him to a pretty hefty deal for a hopeful special teams contributor last year, but he ended up missing the majority of last year due to a knee injury.
Owens is set to have a cap hit of over $1.1 million this year. If Owens wants to earn a spot, it will likely have to be on special teams, because there doesn’t appear to be a fit for him on offense.
Chances of making final roster: 20% (too much of a cap hit for a limited role)
Miller is what I like to call a camp hero. He received a lot of praise during camp last year and some believed he would even make the final roster. Instead, he landed on the practice squad and has another shot this year. Miller is dangerous in open space because he has incredible speed, but he’s just not a between the tackles kind of runner.
If he has any shot at making the team he would have to beat out Jeremy Ross and others as the premier punt or kick returner, otherwise he’ll likely be stashed on the practice squad for another year.
Chances of making final roster: 10% (another year on the practice squad)
Did They Improve?
I would call it a push from a talent perspective. But with our new offensive scheme, you can guarantee that we’ll see more production out of the running back position this year. Look to see more out of Theo Riddick and Mikel Leshoure in 2014.
Last year we saw some inconsistency out of the running back position with ball security. The Lions will need Bush and Bell to hold onto the ball better than they did last year, because they were near the top in giveaways.
Training Camp Preview Series: Quarterback