Lions running backs Joique Bell, left, and Reggie Bush, right, will remain the top two options at the position, especially considering both are under contract for the next three years at more than $3 million per season. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
West Bloomfield — Lions running back Joique Bell is happy he doesn’t have to choose how to divvy running back snaps this season.
“I’m glad I’m not a coach because this is going to be a lot to handle,” he said Tuesday at his youth camp at West Bloomfield High School.
Based on how the Saints have utilized running backs in recent years, the Lions will give multiple backs a chance each game under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who spent the past seven seasons in New Orleans.
Bell and Reggie Bush will remain the top two options, especially considering both are under contract for the next three years at more than $3 million per season. But behind them, Theo Riddick could find a bigger role than he had as the No. 3 back as a rookie last year.
“Theo Riddick has had an awesome offseason, and seeing him progress from his rookie year until now, it looks like he’s going into his third or fourth year in the NFL,” Bell said. “The only thing he has to keep doing is learning the game and getting experience. He’ll be a great player in this league.”
Bell joined Bush, quarterback Dan Orlovsky and other Lions players in touting Riddick, who impressed this offseason while Bell was sidelined with a knee injury. On former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker’s podcast this week, Orlovsky compared Riddick to running back Darren Sproles, a home-run threat in the Saints offense the past three seasons.
While the praise from teammates makes sense, it’s far too early to compare Riddick to Sproles, especially considering Riddick had just nine carries and four receptions in 2013. When Sproles arrived in New Orleans in 2011, he effectively filled Bush’s role in the Saints’ offense as someone who could run but was more effective as a pass catcher.
Bush has become a better runner between the tackles since leaving the Saints in 2010, but he’s still the most likely running back to be used as a big-play threat in the Lions’ new offense.
Bell, meanwhile, will probably handle the Pierre Thomas role as someone who can run between the tackles and be effective on screens.
The Saints also gave a sizeable workload to Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson last season, which is why Riddick, Mikel Leshoure and other Lions backs can be optimistic about finding work in Lombardi’s system.
Riddick also takes pride in his pass blocking, which could help him earn snaps on third downs.
“Yeah, we’ll see what happens,” Bell said. “What me and Reggie did last year, we made history in the NFL. … But I train every season like I’m about to get a workload. We’ll see how this season goes.”
Last season Bush and Bell became the first tandem in NFL history to each have 500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in a season.
Bush said earlier this offseason that rotating running backs as the Saints do will help keep them all fresh, but he didn’t know how the duties would be split.
Bell doesn’t know what the different roles will be either, but after playing more than expected the past two seasons, he’s not worried about losing touches.
“I haven’t talked to the coaches about it,” he said. “I’ve never been concerned with that. I’ve never asked the coaches why or how everything’s going to be ran. You just find your role, and you stick with it. And that’s what I’ve been doing, and it’s worked out for me.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the team and what’s going to help the team be better.”