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Detroit Lions’ Positional Recap, Running Back Edition: Reggie Bush and Joique Bell Ideal 1-2

February 4th, 2014 at 10:58 AM
By Max DeMara

Every Monday/Tuesday during the winter, we're taking a closer look back at the progression of every position on the Detroit Lions during the 2013 season.

Entering 2013, the Detroit Lions hadn't enjoyed a quality rushing attack in a long time, but that changed in a dramatic way when the team added Reggie Bush from the Miami Dolphins in the offseason. Convinced that Bush would give their offense a new dimension, Detroit committed to the runner and didn't regret it.
'MIA_vs_OAK_023' photo (c) 2012, June Rivera - license:
Bursting on the scene with a major game against the Minnesota Vikings in the season opener, Bush's impact appeared to be dramatic from the start, but inconsistency elsewhere would bog down the offense. Also playing a solid role in the backfield was unheralded Joique Bell, who combined with Bush to break an NFL record. The duo became the first to go over 500 yards with regards to rushing and receiving. It was a solid accomplishment. Can they do it again? Will Mikel Leshoure be traded or find a role? Here's a look at the runners.
1. Reggie Bush. It was a solid season for Bush, who didn't have the durability concerns that many figured would plague him in Detroit. Even though he missed a few games, Bush still collected 1,006 yards on the ground while collecting a solid 506 through the air and seven total touchdowns. He provided Detroit's offense with the best straight ahead scoring threat arguably since Barry Sanders. Bush needs to remain a threat on the ground most for Detroit going forward, and he could become even more dangerous if the Lions find a few more receiving weapons down field.
  • Does He Stay? Likely. Bush is signed through the next two seasons, so it's obvious that Jim Caldwell will be depending on him to tote the rock for the foreseeable future. Considering the staff likes him as much as he seems to like the staff (Bush worked with Joe Lombardi in New Orleans and went to bat for running backs coach Curtis Modkins) it seems he will likely finish his career off in Detroit.
  • 2014 Outlook: If the Lions manage to get Matthew Stafford going and find a few more weapons to assist Calvin Johnson, the reality is, Bush will only get better and look more explosive both on the field and statistically. Expect him to have another dynamic season, and perhaps eclipse the numbers he amassed last year, providing he keeps his health intact.
2. Joique Bell. The 27 year-old Bell, who was previously unknown, had his best NFL season in 2013, rumbling for 650 yards and eight scores while hauling in 547 yards through the air and became a household name. Moreover, Bell was an important player for the team as it relates to keeping Bush healthy, as he is a physical runner who can take a pounding in between the tackles and grind out yardage in tough weather outdoor games. All in all, it was a major coming out party for the former Wayne State Warrior.
  • Does He Stay? Likely. A restricted free agent, Bell reportedly wants to skip the process to simply return to Detroit, the place where he went to college, worked and has blossomed. Seeing him leave would be shocking. Bell is likely a top priority for Martin Mayhew and company this offseason, so expect him to be back in the fold.
  • 2014 Outlook: More of the same will be expected for Bell in 2014, and he might even see an uptick in his rushing yards as Caldwell and company look to make pounding the ball a bigger point of emphasis. His positive impact on and off the field will continue to be felt.
3. Theo Riddick. A seventh round pick out of Notre Dame in April of 2013, Riddick didn't play much during the regular season, but was utilized when Bush would depart with injury and scored a touchdown. The reality is, Riddick, though he plays a solid complementary role, is probably expendable considering he was brought in under the last staff and has many of the same skill sets that can be replaced by another late round draft pick.
  • Does He Stay? Possibly. Riddick will likely have to earn his spot in training camp against a rookie and others, so that's up in the air as it stands in early February.
  • 2014 Outlook: Wherever he plays, Riddick will likely play the same type of role trying to hang around a roster as a speedy replacement runner in case someone (Bush or otherwise) gets hurt. Barring a major second year assention, count on Riddick to be a marginal contributor again.

4. Mikel Leshoure. It was not a great season for Leshoure, who spent most of his time on Sunday's sitting on the inactive list. Leshoure, a major second round draft pick just two years ago, had his role usurped by Bell, and as a result, was rumored to be on the trading block much of the 2013 season. Mayhew never pulled the trigger, but it will be interesting to see if he can garner a pick or asset out of Leshoure this offseason. Though the team continues to say there's a spot for him in Detroit, it's tough to imagine Leshoure cracking through the Bush/Bell wall to see significant minutes. If he stays, he'll have to beat out Riddick or other rookies for a spot as a third running back.

  • Does He Stay? Not likely. Though teams can never have too many power runners in the tough NFL, Detroit has found gold in Bell and might want to get another mid-round draft pick. The best possible way to do this would be trading Leshoure, a runner without many miles, allowing him to get his career on track somewhere else. It's the best possible move for both sides at this point in time.
  • 2014 Outlook: If he proves he can stay healthy, Leshoure could be an effective back. He played well when given time in 2012 (798 yards and nine scores) and was a solid power runner. If he gets a chance to play anywhere, he could be a difference maker in a 1/2 punch system.

Next week, the wide receiver position, which saw it's successes and failures on and off the field last year, will be put under the microscope.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

Tags: Calvin Johnson, Curtis Modkins, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jim Caldwell, Joe Lombardi, Joique Bell, Mikel Leshoure, NFL, Reggie Bush, Theo Riddick

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