Lions Will Keep Bush and Leshoure Busy, but Bell Will Be Left out in the Cold
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Despite the fact that the Detroit Lions brought Reggie Bush in to fire up the offense, Tim Twentyman over at the Detroit Lions website says that Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell will still have "big roles in the offense."
That's all well and good, as long as they don't spread out those carries too much.
Last year, the Lions ran the ball just 391 times as a team—that's the eighth-fewest runs as a team in the NFL. When you factor out wide receiver end-arounds and quarterback sneaks and scrambles, you end up with just 339 runs by running backs.
Over the last two seasons, Bush has carried the ball 216 and 227 times, respectively. Both seasons resulted in 900-plus yard seasons.
Leshoure ran the ball 215 times, while Bell carried it 82 times.
I'm no Mathmagician, and I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I'd say the three running backs currently on the roster carried the ball more than 339 times in 2012.
Something has to give here.
Now, maybe you're saying to yourself, "Well, they'll run the ball more. 25th in the league, that's too few. Less throwing and more running, that's the way Detroit will go in 2013."
Granted, they will probably run the ball more and not have Matt Stafford huck it 600-plus times for a third straight year. It's not a sustainable plan, and if the wide receivers are hit with injury as they were last year, it can't possibly work.
That said, you don't acquire a guy like Bush and then have three running backs involved in major roles. Mostly because there just aren't three major roles in a backfield—unless someone becomes a fullback and starts blocking.
And that's even if, as the linked article states, there are "1,000 offensive plays." You're simply going to be shorting someone on carries.
Which is fine. In fact, as far as I am concerned, it's preferable. You brought Bush in to lend a spark and Leshoure is the heavy lifter between the tackles.
If anyone is left out in the cold, it's Bell. He costs the least and there isn't as much time and money invested in him. He also doesn't bring a skill which isn't replicated by either Bush or Leshoure—and executed better by them.
I can see a relatively even split between Bush and Leshoure, with Bush slightly ahead, but that means Bell is seeing even fewer carries than last year and relegated to occasional mop-up duty.
It's fine to say there are enough snaps to keep everyone happy, but the reality is that there aren't—not in the backfield and not for a team with major weapons in the pass game.
While it's nice to say that everyone will have a role, the truth is that for at least one guy—probably Bell—that role might include keeping a bench warm.
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