By Ashley Dunkak
Before the start of preseason, maybe even as recently as Wednesday, it would be reasonable to consider Mikel Leshoure the favorite for the Detroit Lions number two running back. Leshoure rushed for 798 yards over 14 games in 2012, and while new acquisition Reggie Bush will likely get the most carries, Leshoure is poised to be a major contributor again.
With the addition of Joique Bell, though, Leshoure’s future is not so certain. Bell played for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, and now he is contesting Leshoure for the Lions’ main backup spot. Both got five carries in Thursday’s game against the New England Patriots, but Bell came away with 52 yards while Leshoure recorded 32.
Leshoure is now behind Bell on the unofficial depth chart. Neverthless, he seemed steady after practice Monday.
“No disappointment, no frustration,” he said. “I just go out there and take advantage of my opportunities. I come to work, I take notes, I go to meetings, and I do everything like I’m supposed to be doing. At this level, you’ve got to be professional about everything. You’ve just got to come to work.”
“However many carries I’m going to get or however many plays I’m going to get, I’ve just got to take advantage of them and let the film do the work,” he added.
Leshoure was expected to be big for the Lions in 2011 before he tore his Achilles during preseason. Since then, of course, he played in almost every game of the 2012 season, and he said his injury has no bearing on his status with the Lions now.
“I feel good,” Leshoure said. “I feel like I’m back where I need to be. Nothing as far as my Achilles is the issue here. I don’t put that on anything as far as my injury. I’m fine, I’m 100 percent, and I’m good to go.”
Bell, for his part, said the competition at running back includes more than just him and Leshoure. After all, there are still numerous others besides them in contention for roles in the offense.
“We’re just coming out here to get better,” Bell said. “I’m not just competing against whoever you think I’m competing against. I’m competing against all the other running backs. It the job, out here trying to earn a job. It’s a job, and you have to compete out here. And it’s not about just competing. It’s about making yourself better because the better we are as a group, the better the team is.”
Bell said that Bush is among the best at making the unit better.
“He brings a different level of competition to the group,” Bell said. “He comes out, he pushes us, and we like to push back, and whenever you get a group of competitors together, we always push each other.”
Outside of Bush, Bell and Leshoure, running back Steven Miller has also garnered attention. Though he has not gotten carries since the Lions’ first preseason game, he has opened some eyes with his play on special teams.
“He’s been ball secure on his punt returns, which is number one,” head coach Jim Schwartz said. “He made a couple guys miss. I think you sort of pride yourself on, as a returner, on being able to make the first guy miss. That’s one of the things he’s been able to do. So ball security, making the first guy miss. After that, you’ve got to have some help blocking. I think he’s done well.”
The Lions trimmed the roster again Tuesday and will have to be down to 53 by Saturday night, so the running back position could lose a few members in the next few days.