Allen Park — Joique Bell is averaging an abysmal 1.1 yards per run so far this season, but despite his ineffectiveness, he still received more carries — 10 to eight — than rookie running back Ameer Abdullah in the Lions’ 24-12 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night.
On Monday, coach Jim Caldwell stood by the veteran back, who currently looks like the No. 3 option — at best — in the Lions’ backfield. He also denied a reporter’s claim that Bell looks slow.
“He’s not quite where he used to be, where he was last year, but I think he’ll get there,” Caldwell said of the 29-year-old Bell.
Although Bell is behind Abdullah and Theo Riddick in terms of snaps, the Lions are still trying to work him into the offense. He has 20 carries for 22 yards and five catches for 41 yards, and on Sunday, he totaled 4 yards on 11 touches, though one was a 1-yard touchdown run.
Despite Bell’s struggles, Caldwell said the offensive line has to perform better to give him more opportunities to run.
“He didn’t perform as well as he’s capable,” Caldwell said. “He obviously did his blocking assignments and those kinds of things. Just like any other position, it’s not always on him. He can’t create his own opportunities sometimes.”
Bell thrived at times in 2014 despite being hit in the backfield. In the second half of the season, he ran for 547 yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
Caldwell said all of the Lions’ running backs have a role to play, and Bell’s appears to be mostly in short yardage and pass protection. However, he said the coaches will continue to evaluate the deployment of Bell compared to Abdullah, who had 42 yards on 10 total touches including a 16-yard touchdown catch.
“We do that constantly,” Caldwell said. “We always kind of look at it and kind of make a determination on what best suits us, and that’s a constant sort of evaluation that we do and which we’ll do and we’ll take a good look at and we’ll see.”