First-year Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi hails from New Orleans, where running backs can never be fully relied on in fantasy circles. That’s now the mindset in the Motor City, too.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Lomabardi plans to split carries between Reggie Bush and Joique Bell into a 50:50 timeshare. Bell will serve as the short-yardage, more ground-and-pound type back, while Bush is better suited as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and the more dynamic big-play threat.
“I see these guys kind of having a split role and both being very productive,” Lombardi said Monday told the Detroit Free Press.
But which back can we trust more?
Bell has averaged 4.3 yards per carry over the past two seasons in Detroit, including a career-best 650 yards on 166 attempts, not to mention he’s a fine fit for first-year head coach Jim Caldwell’s more traditional-style offense. He’s also a very capable receiver, hauling in more than 50 receptions in each of the past two seasons, averaging about 10 yards per catch during that span.
Then there’s Bush, who enjoyed one of his best years under Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan last season with the Lions. Bush eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark on 223 carries, the second-most of his career. He also had 54 receptions for more than 500 yards, as well as seven total touchdowns. With Bell in the mix last season, Bush outperformed him, gaining more yards per attempt (4.5) on about five more carries per game. He also displayed the ability to run in between the tackles.
The versatile skill-set of Bell gives, but it seems likely Bush will have every opportunity to get the first crack as the starter. The Lions just handed Bell a $9.3 million extension, meaning the team is serious about making him a part of Caldwell’s offense.
It doesn’t mean Bush shouldn’t be drafted. Bush has more breakaway play ability, and is still valuable in the RB3/flex range, much like Darren Sproles did with the Saints under Lombardi. Bush has a history of injuries to consider as well, playing in all 16 games of the regular season just once in his career.
Because of Bell’s durability, he has a chance to lead the Lions in carries, and that sort of volume of work must be weights more heavily than Bush’s big-play ability. When it came down to numbers, Bush played in 54 percent of the offensive snaps last year, compared to Bell, who played 49 percent of the time. That number feasibly could be switched around in favor of the younger, fresher and newly paid Bell.