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Camp battles: Is the Lions' starting RB job up for grabs?

Joique Bell is projected to be the Detroit Lions' starting running back, but is the door open for rookie Ameer Abdullah to win that job in training camp?

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

At this time a year ago, Reggie Bush was considered the Detroit Lions' starting running back. As 2014 progressed, however, it became clear that the starting job really belonged to Joique Bell. The depth chart may not have actually reflected that, but Bell emerged as the Lions' top back over the course of last season.

This year, with Bush gone, Bell has become the Lions' projected starting running back. However, he is coming off of surgery this offseason, and he missed OTAs and the Lions' minicamp as a result. With second-round pick Ameer Abdullah getting a lot of reps this spring, perhaps he could ride that momentum into winning the starting job this summer.

The candidates

This job is viewed as Bell's to lose because he rushed for 860 yards and seven touchdowns last season despite having some pretty poor run blocking in front of him. He improved quite a bit as the season went on, and he also caught 34 passes for 322 yards and another touchdown. This came after he rushed for 650 yards and eight touchdowns and gained another 547 yards on 53 catches in 2013. Bell has shown he can be an every-down type of back, and if the offensive line in front of him improves, he could put up some big numbers this year.

Bell's competition for the starting job is going to come from Abdullah, who was the Lions' second-round pick this year. Abdullah put up massive numbers at Nebraska, rushing for 4,588 yards and 39 touchdowns over four seasons. He also showed an ability to make plays out of the backfield as a receiver, and he also contributed as a returner at times while at Nebraska.

Who has the edge right now?

If we're basing this only on what will happen going into the regular season, I'm pretty confident that Bell will be the starting running back as long as he's healthy. There's no reason to expect him to miss a bunch of time in camp or not be ready for the season, so unless he surprisingly finds himself on the PUP list for most of August and Abdullah consistently impresses as the starting running back in his place, chances are there won't be any changes atop the depth chart.

Over the course of 2015, however, we could see a repeat of last year with the No. 2 running back emerging as the actual starter. I suppose the label of "starting running back" could be rendered meaningless with week-to-week matchups potentially determining the spread of touches at this position, but it would not be surprising at all if Abdullah finishes 2015 as the starter at this spot. It just might take him some time to move up the depth chart.

Previously: Backup quarterback

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