July 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

Lions expect No. 3 running back Theo Riddick to play key role

Detroit News sports writers on Day 2 of Lions trai...
Detroit News sports writers on Day 2 of Lions trai...: Josh Katzenstein and Rod Beard discuss the Lions

Allen Park — On May 28, Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi casually mentioned running back Theo Riddick “as a player that has some ability.”

A few days later, NFL Network analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah tweeted that Riddick is his “favorite sleeper” after hearing good reviews from the organization.

From there, Riddick’s teammates — Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Dan Orlovsky, among others — boarded the hype train and sped it up.

“Theo had one of the best offseasons I’ve seen in a long time for a young guy,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said last weekend.

But Riddick, a sixth-round pick in 2013, isn’t listening to all the buildup.

“I haven’t really proven anything, so those are just words,” he said Tuesday after training camp.

As a rookie, Riddick was one of the top special teams player for the Lions, and his skills helped him become the No. 3 running back behind Bush and Bell. On offense, Riddick had nine carries for 25 yards and a touchdown, as well as four catches for 26 yards.

With Lombardi bringing an offense similar to the one he ran with the Saints the past seven years — he rotated at least three running backs — it’s fair to expect Riddick to have a lot more touches this season. At Notre Dame, Riddick played some slot receiver, so his versatility will provide the Lions another weapon.

“He’s got intensity, he hustles, he’s got desire, toughness — all of those things,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “And he’s a very capable runner. Also, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, very tough to handle in terms of one-on-one situations.”

While Riddick’s hustle helped him earn a special teams role last year, his maturity has been the key to his improvement this year. Wide receiver TJ Jones, a sixth-round pick this year, played with Riddick at Notre Dame and said he could see the difference.

“He was a lot more decisive now,” Jones said. “There wasn’t as much hesitation. When he made his cut, he was going. It wasn’t any second guessing.”

Extra points

…The Lions claimed wide receiver Quintin Payton off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Payton went undrafted this year out of N.C. State. and fills the 90th spot on the roster.

…The Lions will practice at Wayne State Wednesday at Tom Adams Field. Gates open at 6 p.m. with practice at 7:30.

“I’m excited about having the opportunity to see them in another setting,” Caldwell said.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com
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As a rookie, Theo Riddick was one of the top special teams player for the Lions. On offense, Riddick had nine carries for 25 yards. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News