Returning from last season: Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, Kevin Smith, Joique Bell, Keiland Williams, Stefan Logan
New to the team: Stephfon Green, James Bryant
On paper, the Detroit Lions have quite a bit of talent at the running back position. The issue is that in reality, there are a lot of question marks about the health of their top three running backs. Jahvid Best, for example, is coming off of a season-ending concussion. While he is expected to be cleared for contact prior to the start of training camp, concussions remain a concern.
Mikel Leshoure is also dealing with question marks related to an injury, as he tore his Achilles during training camp last year. Reviews so far have been pretty positive about the progress he has made in his recovery, but that was only based on what he did in OTAs and the Lions' mandatory minicamp. Will he hold up over the course of the entire preseason? And will he show explosiveness when on the field during a game? It remains to be seen, but so far so good in terms of what he's doing on the field. Off the field is a different story, as his actions this offseason resulted in him being suspended two games in the regular season.
The third running back with injury-related question marks is Kevin Smith. After joining the Lions mid-season in 2011, Smith showed some serious flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately, injuries once again popped up and hampered the stretch run of the season. Smith has been brought back again by the Lions, and he could be a big contributor if he can stay healthy, but that is something he has struggled with quite a bit so far in his career.
Beyond these three running backs, the Lions have Joique Bell, Keiland Williams, Stephfon Green, James Bryant and Stefan Logan. Bell only joined the Lions at the end of last season, so training camp and the preseason will be fans' first real chance to get a look at him. Williams joined the Lions at the start of last season and will be out to prove he deserves a spot on the roster again in 2012. Green is an undrafted free agent and Bryant was signed as a fullback earlier this offseason, so both players' odds aren't great of making the team. Finally, Logan is also in a fight to make the team with his job as the team's returner in jeopardy. He is hoping to become more involved in the offense in order to improve his chances of sticking around.
Need going forward?
How big of a need the Lions have to add running backs to the team likely will come down to the health of Best and Leshoure. The Lions should get a pretty good idea of what to expect out of them at the beginning of training camp. If Best is cleared and Leshoure shows he's still on the right track, then there won't be much incentive to go out and find a veteran running back to add to the team. The Lions did show interest in Ryan Grant earlier this offseason, but that didn't develop into anything. I could see them mixing things up toward the bottom of the depth chart, but barring any injury issues, I wouldn't expect there to be a ton of movement at the position.