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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
ChatWrap: Joique Bell vs. Mikel Leshoure

By Kevin Seifert

Our final NFC North-centric SportsNation chat produced plenty of laughs and inside jokes, along with a few serious points of discussion as well. Among them was the future of the Detroit Lions' backfield behind starter Reggie Bush. The relevant exchange:

Chris (Charlotte, NC)

Could Mikel Leshoure get cut from the Lions? He has been very unimpressive and lost his role to Joique Bell. I would rather see someone with a bit more hear that could play special teams.

Kevin Seifert (2:20 PM)

A good point and an understandable thought. For depth reasons, though, I think you have to keep him on the roster. The Lions would be one injury away from being pretty thin in the backfield.

Let's back up a bit. It seemed clear to me during this month's visit to Lions training camp that coaches held Bell in high regard. Moreover, I didn't get the sense that Leshoure would receive any favoritism because he was a second-round draft pick, while Bell had bounced around before signing with the Lions last season.

Regardless, the competition hasn't been close this preseason. Bell leads the team with 75 yards on 11 carries and has continued to display exceptional ability to break tackles and gain yards after first contact. According to Pro Football Focus, he gained 36 of his 52 yards after contact last week against the New England Patriots. He caused four missed tackles on five carries and three more in the passing game. Finally, the Lions could use him as a kickoff returner if their roster makeup requires it.

I understand why Chris wondered if the Lions would release Leshoure. He isn't an obvious candidate to be a regular special teams contributor, which the No. 3 running back on a team should be. But you could do a lot worse than him if injuries require you to put your No. 3 running back on the field.