Found July 18, 2013 on Football and Futbol:
TEAMS: Detroit Lions
After an explosive start in 2011, the Lion’s run game has lacked a certain pizzaz that caused defensive coordinators nightmares every week. Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell gave a valiant effort but could not hit the afterburners to create big plays and take pressure off Stafford and the receiving core. There is a silver lining in bringing Leshoure and Bell back for another season: If Reggie Bush goes down, both men can be relied upon to average 4+ yards per carry. The Lion’s run game last season was not necessarily a negative but it certainly was not a positive. While both men continued to push the ball forward, defenses just did not need to really account for them because they were never worried about being burned with a big play. That will need to be addressed in the coming season. Enter Reggie Bush. Reggie Bush is not going to be the savior of the Detroit Lions by any means, but at minimum he will hold defenses accountable to the Running Backs. In addition, now Bush is an excellent receiving back and can create nightmare mismatches for opponents’ Linebacker cores. As long as the key pieces of this offense stay healthy (Stafford, Johnson, Bush, in that order) the Lions have a legitimate shot at taking a wildcard seed. While it is difficult for lifelong Lions fans to –really- expect a playoff berth, especially in one of the toughest divisions in football, the Lions have the pieces in place to be a contender. But what if Bush does get hurt? The depth at the position goes downhill pretty quickly. Also on the roster are Fullback Shaun Chapas, and Running Backs Joique Bell, Mikel Leshoure, Steven Miller, Montell Owens, and Theo Riddick. Riddick and Miller are rookies this season, and I believe only one will stay on the roster. The Lions spent a draft pick on Riddick but that does not ensure he will earn a spot on the 53-man roster. He does provide some of the same versatility as Bush from his experience playing as a slot receiver for two years, but he is nowhere near as fast. Miller is slightly faster than Riddick and has a good shot at becoming the return man. In reality the amount either man can contribute on special teams is what will earn them their roster spot, they are fighting to be the fourth Running Back on the depth chart and have long odds of ever getting carries this season. Montell Owens is another person whose special teams prowess will determine his roster spot. He did well for Jacksonville last season and will probably be brought on as a specialist. That leaves Chapas, Bell, and Leshoure. The Lions’ offense does not need a Fullback. Last season Chapas had 0 carries and 1 reception for 6 yards. The role a Fullback would fill in Scott Linehan’s is going to be filled by a Tight End (much to my chagrin). Chapas should be cut and allowed to move to an offense that might actually utilize him instead of spinning his wheels here in Detroit. Leshoure is two years removed from an Achille’s Tendon tear that slowed him down last season and made him lack explosiveness. If that is fully healed then he should take the #2 spot on the depth chart. Either way, this season should be his last chance to prove his effectiveness. Bell actually did better than Leshoure last season averaging 1.3 more yards per carry. To put that in perspective, Bell was 35% more effective on run plays and was the better receiving back as well with 47% higher yards per reception. Bell averaged 9.3 yards per reception while Leshoure averaged 6.3 yards per reception. All-in-all this entire Running Back group is relying upon Bush to stay healthy. While Leshoure and Bell are serviceable, they did not prove effective for what the Lions’ offense needs. Explosive backfield play that draws coverage off of Stafford and Johnson.
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