Detroit Lions Running Back Breakdown: Full Evaluation and Depth Chart Analysis
Ever since that fateful day in 1999 when Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders retired, the Detroit Lions have been clamoring for that home-run hitting running back.
Sure, they had James Stewart, who was good enough in his first season. But after that, the Lions have had virtually nothing to write home about in the running back department.
Hearing this, Lions' GM Martin Mayhew has done what he could to try to shore up that position, though some would argue to no avail. Jahvid Best hasn't played in two seasons, Mikel Leshoure missed his rookie season with a torn Achilles tendon and the Kevin Smith Revival Tour was cut short last season.
Really, it seemed as if the only real surprise this season was Joique Bell, who held his own last season for the Honolulu blue. This year, however, a new face will don the blue and silver in an effort to shore up a much-maligned position.
Hey, anyone can be better than Greg Hill or Tatum Bell, right?
So without further ado, I present to you the men who will be carrying the ball for the Lions this season.
College: Wayne State
Years Experience: 3
2012 stats: 82 Attempts, 414 yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 3 TDs
Joique Bell did a good job for the Lions last season. Even though he split time with Mikel Leshoure, Bell still managed to average five yards per run and amassed over 400 yards rushing. Not bad for a split-back.
Bell adds another dimension to the Lions. He can catch the ball out of the backfield as well as just be a solid ball-carrier. Look for him to get a few touches down in the red zone or in third-down situations.
Depth chart analysis: Backup
2012 stats: Did Not Play (Concussion, Injured Reserve)
When Jahvid Best was drafted in 2010, the Lions took an inherent risk. Best was known for having multiple concussions while still at Cal, but when the Lions took a chance on him, it paid dividends.
Best had a good combination of speed and power, as well as the ability to catch the ball and make defenders miss. Remember that 88-yard run against Chicago on Monday Night Football?
For a while, it seemed as if Best was the answer to the Lions' prayers until he went down with his second concussion in as many seasons in 2011 after a game against the 49ers. Best has not played since.
It is unlikely Best will ever play again in the NFL.
Depth Chart Analysis: Injured Reserve
2012 stats (with Miami): 227 attempts, 986 yards, 4.3 yards per carry
Could this be the answer to the Lions' prayers?
If his stats from the previous two seasons are any indication, the Lions will get a major boost from Reggie Bush.
Bush came to the Lions on the first day of free agency. It's a popular saying in car companies that "When you want to sell a product, you don't let the customer leave the showroom."
Well, the Lions did not let Bush leave the showroom, and four years and $16 million later, Bush was a Lion.
Bush had two solid seasons back-to-back in Miami. While it is unclear if he will split carries between himself and Leshoure, you can expect Bush to get his fair share of carries––and love––in Detroit. Should he regress to his final seasons in New Orleans, however, it will be back to the drawing board.
Not only can Bush run and catch out of the backfield, but he should also be able to provide a mega-boost to the Lions' special teams game. Bush was a solid return man with New Orleans and Miami, and let's face it––anyone is better than Stefan Logan has been.
Depth chart analysis: Starter
2012 stats: 1 catch, 6 yards
Shaun Chapas is in a precarious position with the Lions. For some reason, the Lions do not like to use a fullback. Chapas has not had many games in two seasons in the NFL, and last season, he did not manage a running attempt.
While Chapas may be a decent blocker, the Lions may have little to no use for him, and I would not be surprised to see him among the list of cuts come preseason.
Depth Chart Analysis: Unlikely to make the team
2012 stats: 215 attempts, 798 yards, 3.7 yards per carry
After missing all of 2011 with an Achilles injury and the first two games of 2012 for violating the league's substance abuse policy, Leshoure hit the ground running the first few games with the Lions last season.
While he only gained 798 yards and ended up splitting carries with Joique Bell towards the end of the season, Leshoure still proved to be a solid back, providing that power running game that the Lions have been seeking since Kevin Jones.
Leshoure, like Bell, did have a problem with fumbling the ball last season, and he will be looking to avoid that this season if he hopes to hang on to his starting spot.
Depth chart analysis: Starter
College: Appalachian State
2012 stats: N/A
Rookie punter Sam Martin will be reunited with his former teammate at Appalachian State, Steven Miller.
Per App State's team website, Miller was the second-leading rusher in 2011 for the Mountaineers. Miller's biggest attribute is his speed.
Miller's biggest contributions may be on special teams early on. However, if he can impress enough people in camp and LeShoure and Bush struggle or have injury problems, we could see Miller scurrying around on the field in a more prominent role.
Buyer beware, however. Remember what happened the last time we had a 5'7" guy on special teams.
Depth Chart Analysis: Special Teams
College: Notre Dame
2012 stats: N/A
This, to me, is the steal of the 2013 NFL draft for the Lions. At least in the sixth round.
Awaken the echoes, Lions fans. The Lions have a player from Notre Dame who is actually partway decent.
Theo Riddick starred last year for Notre Dame. He played in 13 games and started in eight, yet made the most of his eight starts. Riddick returned to running back last season after moving to wide receiver in 2010.
According to the team website, Riddick led the Irish with 190 carries and 917 yards. He also tallied five touchdowns and amassed 1,287 all-purpose yards.
The Lions will look to Riddick as they attempt to shore up their special teams game. He has good speed, good backfield vision, and solid enough hands that he could eventually find himself as a primary return man.
Not bad for a sixth-round pick.
Depth Chart Analysis: Special teams