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Detroit Lions roster preview: Can Greg Bell carve out a role in the RB rotation?

After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, Greg Bell is looking to earn a spot in the Detroit Lions running backs room.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Our Detroit Lions roster preview series wraps up the 2022 draft class by taking a closer look at undrafted running back Greg Bell out of San Diego State.

Last year, Bell was injured on the second day of training camp and spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. Now healthy, Bell will be looking to jump back into the mix for a role in the Lions' running back rotation.

Previous roster previews: Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Josh Paschal, Kerby Joseph, James Mitchell, Malcolm Rodriguez, James Houston, Chase Lucas, and Obinna Eze.

Greg Bell

Expectations heading into 2022

After beginning his college career at a junior college and transferring in and out of Nebraska, Bell returned to his home state of California and enrolled at San Diego State University. Bell redshirted after a serious eye injury in 2019, then missed half of 2020 with a foot injury that required surgery but still managed to receive second-team all-Mountain West conference honors. As a sixth-year senior in 2021, Bell was fully healthy and rushed for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns.

During his season and a half at SDSU, he caught the eye of former Lions assistant head coach and running backs coach Duce Staley.

“When you get a chance to turn the tape on, on Greg Bell, you see vision,” Staley. “I remember turning the SDSU tape on because they do some different things offensively and he just kept sticking out. I was like, ‘Man, I gotta find out who this kid is.’ You see the great vision, the burst, and you saw his hands.”

The Lions made Bell a priority signing after going undrafted in 2022, giving him $100,000 in contractual guarantees, the third highest of all the Lions UDFAs in that draft cycle.

As a one-cut power runner, Bell’s foot quickness and vision to get downhill quickly fit right into the Lions' scheme. His ability to process what was happening in front of him and make quick decisions allowed him to get north-south in a hurry and to pick up chunk yards in college. Poor ball security and lack of special teams contributions were obstacles for Bell to overcome in the NFL, but he had upside and the support of Staley to help him along the way.

Unfortunately, Bell suffered yet another brutal injury on the second day of the Lions' training camp. A few days later, Bell was released with an injury designation, passed through waivers unclaimed, then reverted back to the Lions roster where they placed him on injured reserve, effectively shutting him down for the season.

Actual role in 2022

Because Bell was placed on injured reserve before cut-day in September, NFL rules require that he remain on injured reserve for the entire season. The Lions had the option to retain Bell and pay his contract, or release him with an injury settlement. They opted to keep him on the roster, and in turn, keep his contract intact, allowing him to stay with the team during the 2023 offseason.

Outlook for 2023

With the Lions investing in free agent David Montgomery and drafting Jahmyr Gibbs in the first round, the Lions have their one-two punch solidified for 2023. Craig Reynolds will be looking to hold on to his RB3 role, but he will face competition from Bell, 2022 seventh-rounder Jermar Jefferson, and 2023 UDFA Mohamed Ibrahim.

Despite Reynolds being the incumbent for the top reserve role, the job seems very wide open and could be earned by any of the four competitors. If the Lions opt to keep a fourth running back, that increases the chances of one of the reserves winning a spot on the 53-man roster, but it figures to be a fierce camp battle.

If Bell hopes to win a job, he’ll have to correct the concerns he had entering his rookie season: ball security and special teams contributions. If he makes strides in those areas, Bell could quickly find himself in the mix for a role. If he hasn’t corrected those flaws, he has enough upside to warrant a spot on the Lions' 2023 practice squad—but that may also be a battle due to the Lions’ quality of depth.

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