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Insider

How will Lions split backfield touches?

3/20/2014

The current expectation is that new Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi will bring his version of the New Orleans Saints offense to the Motor City in 2014, which would include regular use of two running backs in the backfield.

"You're going to see some more two-back sets," Lions president Tom Lewand told a small crowd this week, according to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com.

"I think you'll see some of that incorporated into what we do," he said. "What I really like about Coach Lombardi's, as well as Coach [Jim] Caldwell's approach is, 'Let's get as many weapons on the field as we can and try to use them strategically.' It's a very adaptable offense, and they want to use the talent and the guys that we have, not just one back at a time because that's what the personnel group calls for."

Last season, Reggie Bush led the Lions with 223 rushes, 57 more than Joique Bell. They were targeted fairly evenly in the passing game; 80 targets and 54 receptions for Bush and 68 targets and 53 receptions for Bell. In '13, Pierre Thomas led the way for the Saints with 147 carries (Mark Ingram was second with 78 and Darren Sproles had 53). In the passing game, Sproles led the backfield with 89 targets for 71 receptions, though Thomas had 84 targets for 77 receptions.

The question at hand is just how exactly Lombardi will split the workload between Bush and Bell in '14. Arguably Bell is better suited to handle the "Pierre Thomas" role as the primary rusher and Bush a better fit in the "Darren Sproles" role by catching passes in space. The likely result will be a lessened rushing workload for Bush, who, in turn, should end up being targeted more as a receiver. That would give Bush a nice bump in fantasy football leagues that reward a point per catch.

We also should expect new fullback Jed Collins to play a role in the offense, though it might not be reflected much on the stat sheet.

"Collins has been a nice fit in New Orleans for the last three years, as I'm sure Lions OC Joe Lombardi knows well," ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett told ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein. "Obviously the fullback position doesn't play a big role in New Orleans' pass-heavy offense. Collins played 39 percent of the Saints' offensive snaps last year. But he's been solid as both a lead blocker and an occasional receiver out of the backfield or short-yardage runner on 'belly' handoffs."