Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder – unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.
Position: Running back/Fullback
Likely roster spots: 5-7.
What to expect in camp: Don’t be surprised to see Bell take more reps than Bush during camp. This won’t have anything to do with a switch at the top of the depth chart, but could have more to do with Bell missing time throughout the spring because of a knee injury. Bush practiced throughout the offseason, so this would be time for Bell to catch up since Detroit will need both in the fall. Figure to see Riddick also receiving a good share of snaps, in part to rest Bush and also to see if his spring breakout performance without pads translates into when he is fully dressed and being hit as well.
Fullback would seem like Collins’ spot to lose since Detroit brought him in during the offseason during its renewed commitment to the position. Yet Owens offers potentially more flexibility as he can play both running back and fullback. Abram is still an unknown but could be one of the undrafted free agents who can push for an actual spot on the 53-man roster. How things shake out could end up affecting other roster spots as well – and vice versa.
What Detroit needs to see: Bell has to have no adverse issues with the knee injury that bothered him but didn’t keep him off the field last season. Riddick needs to show he can continue to improve in his second year. He was one of the team’s better special-teams performers as a rookie but to keep a roster spot, he has to show the ability to become more involved in the offense as well.
More than the health of players, though, the Lions have to see reliable hands from Bell, Bush and Riddick. Those three will be the primary backfield players to receive passes and there were major issues there in 2013. Bush dropped 11.4 percent of the passes he was thrown. Bell dropped 8.8 percent of his attempted catches. Riddick dropped 12.5 percent of passes thrown to him, although he only had eight targets so it was a small sample size.
At fullback, Owens is the intrigue. If he can handle both roles, it could open up a roster spot at another position or bump Collins or Leshoure from the team. Abram is probably headed toward a practice-squad spot unless he really impresses during training camp both on offense and in special teams.