Heading into the 2015-2016 season, the Detroit Lions have a crowded backfield. In today’s NFL, that’s not a bad thing. Many teams are moving to the running back by committee model. In this model, teams can not only keep fresh legs on the field at all times, but they also believe they can prolong the length of an NFL running back’s career. Many of these backs today begin to decline by age 27 or 28 when athletes in other sports would be just hitting their prime. Let’s take a look at who is expected to be splitting the carries for the Lions this season.
Joique Bell 5’11” 229 lbs
Bell shared the carries last season with Reggie Bush who is now with the 49ers but for the most part was the lead back. Bell was given 223 carries to Bush’s 76. Both managed a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry but Bell managed 8 total touchdowns (7 rushing, 1 receiving). Bell showed great flashes and even proved to be a threat receiving the ball out of the backfield compiling 34 receptions for 322 yards. Bell figures to get a good share of the carries, especially between the tackles but there is a rookie right behind him in the pecking order.
Ameer Abdullah 5’9″ 205 lbs
The Lions selected Abdullah with the 54th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Abdullah had a decorated career at Nebraska rushing for over 1,600 yards in both his junior and senior season while also eclipsing 1,000 yards as a sophomore. For his career at Nebraska, Abdullah ran for 4,588 yards and 39 touchdowns. A threat in the passing game as well, Abdullah caught 73 passes for 690 yards and another 7 touchdowns. As a 2nd round pick, Abdullah will certainly be given his opportunities.
Theo Riddick 5’9″ 200 lbs
Riddick was selected in the 6th round with the 199th pick in the 2013 draft out of Notre Dame. He has not been much of a threat on the ground garnering 29 carries for 76 yards and 1 touchdown in his first 2 seasons in the league. He has however found a niche as a 3rd down back being a safety valve in the passing game for Matthew Stafford. In limited time in 2014, Riddick caught 34 passes for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns. Riddick will certainly find ways to get on the field this season because of his ability to make plays.
Another name to look out for is rookie fullback Michael Burton. Burton was selected in the 5th round (168th pick) in the 2015 draft out of Rutgers. After playing his senior season at 232 pounds, Burton weighed in at 242 in his pre-draft measurables and showed up to camp at 250. Burton has added the needed muscle to play fullback in the NFL. Primarily a lead blocker, Burton to manage to showcase some offensive skill in a poor Rutgers offense during he tenure. He managed 47 receptions for 401 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air and had 22 rushes for 116 yards on the ground. With an offense that allows him to do more, Burton could be a hidden option for the Lions.