As the offseason winds down, we're going to project each position on the Detroit Lions depth chart and also take a look at some training camp battles. Next up is the running back position.
It might actually be more accurate to simply list Reggie Bush and Joique Bell as co-starters. We don't know exactly what the rotation is going to look like at running back just yet, but all signs point to Bell getting a bigger role this year. By the end of the season, these two players will likely end up with a similar number of touches, so even though Bush may be listed as the starter, it's really a 1A and 1B type of situation.
Considering how much praise Theo Riddick has received from various teammates this offseason, it's safe to say he will be the Lions' No. 3 running back. He is going to have a role in the passing game, and he should get work in the backfield as a runner as well. It remains to be seen just how big his role will be, but by all accounts the Lions have plans to get him on the field much more than they did last season.
Camp battle to watch: Mikel Leshoure vs. Montell Owens
Mikel Leshoure appears to be the current frontrunner for the No. 4 spot on the depth chart at running back. He's no lock to make the team at this stage, though. He doesn't bring as much value on special teams as Montell Owens, and if there's not a huge difference between what they add to the offense, special teams could be the difference between who makes the team and who doesn't. Then again, if the Lions are planning to regularly utilize at least three running backs, having a capable fourth-stringer like Leshoure could lessen the importance of the special teams aspect.
In other words, based on the vision the Lions have for their offense, going with the better running back might make more sense than simply taking the more versatile player. Special teams contributions are nice, but if there's a situation where injuries pile up at the position, having the better running back is ultimately going to be more important. I suppose this battle will come down to how each player performs, how much the Lions need the added special teams help and just how many carries Joe Lombardi is planning to give to the various running backs on the roster.
I suppose it's also worth considering the possibility that Leshoure and Owens could both make the 53-man roster. It seems unlikely that there will be room for six backs (five running backs and one fullback), even if the Lions only keep two quarterbacks, but if that sixth spot is strictly for special teams, I suppose Owens could make the cut over an extra linebacker or safety. Leshoure's chances of sticking around in this scenario, on the other hand, don't seem nearly as good. Owens has his special teams skills to fall back on, but it's really the No. 4 spot at running back or bust for Leshoure.