Detroit Lions: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Running Back
I'm serious. The final OTAs will be wrapping up before much longer, and training camp will be here before you know it.
Until then, I'll get you up to speed on all of the crucial depth chart particulars, continuing here with the running backs.
Detroit is bringing back the fullback, and it's possible that they carry two. But under no circumstances can the Lions afford to take three into the season.
Jed Collins, inked to a new contract just a few months ago, was likely brought on board based on his experience with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. Collins is a serviceable fullback who can haul in a pass or two (four receiving touchdowns in three years) and starts the offseason atop the depth chart.
He shouldn't get too comfortable, though. Detroit didn't draft any competition, but general manager Martin Mayhew saw enough in Chad Abram to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
What Abram lacks in experience he can make up for with his 4.58 speed and 35.5" vertical, according to NFLDraftScout.com. If he can make an impression in camp and prove reliable on special teams, head coach Jim Caldwell will have to give serious consideration to a two-fullback roster.
Montell Owens is the only other fullback on the roster. He was originally brought in by a different staff to be something of a special teams captain. He'll have to use every one of his wiles, as youth and athleticism are trump cards in the NFL, and Abram is holding both bowers.
Yes, that was a Euchre reference. I might be losing my edge.
5. Steven Miller
Now, on to the guys who will actually tote the rock—well, somewhat.
Steven Miller hasn't logged a professional carry yet, and his chances of that inaugural carry as a Detroit Lion rank somewhere between slim and not happening.
Miller's explosiveness gave him a shot as a return man, but one of the guys higher on this list seems to have removed any chance of that happening. Obviously, Jeremy Ross will get a fair shake too, but Miller has a large mountain to climb to get back into that conversation.
Did you notice the bulk of the analysis here is about Miller as a returner? It's because that's his only shot. He won't be making this team as a running back, and his status on the depth chart reflects that.
4. Mikel Leshoure
What a difference a year and a new coaching regime make.
In 2013, Mikel Leshoure looked to be on his way out of Detroit. Joique Bell took his spot in the rotation, and Leshoure's attitude suffered along with his snap count.
And the stats here really do tell the whole story. One year after scoring nine touchdowns, Leshoure logged just two carries in 2013.
But things are looking up for Leshoure. Lombardi's time with the New Orleans Saints, a team that gave four different running backs at least 50 carries last year, means the new offensive coordinator is certainly open to the idea of splitting carries.
Leshoure has taken to the second chance with gusto. His body type and style are unique among the group of backs and could lead to him moving up at least one spot before the season starts.
3. Theo Riddick
Cornerback Darius Slay has made a great impression at a position of need at Detroit's recent OTAs. And while Theo Riddick has also been garnering plenty of love, he's flown under the radar since the fans and media alike are more concerned about the shaky secondary.
I get it. I even agree that if Slay takes a big step forward, it will be one of the most beneficial developments of this offseason.
However, adding another weapon to an already-dangerous offense wouldn't be a terrible storyline, either.
Theo Riddick has earned the praise of both Reggie Bush and Lombardi in the past month. Riddick might have been considered on the roster bubble heading into this year's OTAs, but he now seems a lock to add to his 13 career touches.
2. Joique Bell
We all know Joique Bell's story by now. How the underdog from Wayne State battled his way from the New Orleans practice squad to starting a few games for the Detroit Lions.
It's great. It's inspiring.
It can also get old if he doesn't produce.
Thus far, Bell has done well as the two in a one-two punch with Bush. He won't be losing his spot after racking up 53 catches and eight rushing touchdowns in 2013.
At least not at first.
I'm not insinuating that Bell isn't capable or talented enough. I love his story as much as anyone else. But 3.9 yards per carry, his average for 2013, isn't the type of number that slams the door on the competition.
His hands assure him a third-down back spot regardless of how things pan out. However, if Bell wants to hold on to this lofty perch, he'll need to hold on to the ball (four fumbles last season) and show a better burst through the line.
1. Reggie Bush
Fumbling wasn't an issue that only affected Bell. Reggie Bush actually lost more fumbles (five) and also dropped 10 passes to boot, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
But Detroit's splash signing of 2013 wasn't a bust. He racked up 1,006 yards on the ground and just over 500 yards through the air. While the turnovers and missed opportunities need to be reduced, no one would get upset if he maintained his level of production.
The question will be how many catches and carries Bush will be handling this season. Much has been made of Lombardi's love of the New Orleans way that was mentioned a few slides ago, and Bush's chances could suffer as a result.
Surely, Lombardi isn't stupid and will get the ball into his most talented back's hands early and often, but the mystery of the running back mix won't be revealed until September.