Impending Free Agents
Joique Bell is such a feel good story it’s easy to root for him to be successful. “Local kid exceeds expectations on home team” is a story all Detroiters can get behind. I mean, did you know he went to Wayne State and used to work security at Ford Field?
Unfortunately, as much as Joique is loved in Detroit, he doesn’t play at an NFL level anymore. He spent four games on the Chicago Bears roster last season, totaling six yards on three carries. After rejoining the Lions he had zero carries and one reception for negative two yards. As fun it has been to cheer for Joique over the last seven seasons, it appears his career is coming to a close.
Existing Player Roles
Losing Ameer Abdullah early in the season was damaging for the Lions, but when Theo Riddick went down in week 13, it crippled the Lions offense. Dwayne Washington was given first shot at replacing Riddick but he failed to produce and his inexperience showed. Zach Zenner replaced him in week 16 and was able to provide a spark late in the season.
Abdullah has been given an injury prone label too quickly, as all indicators are he should be fully recovered by training camp. His 2016 foot injury was the only significant injury of his career and there is no reason believe this will be a concern moving forward. He should begin camp as the Lions starting running back but there’s a real chance he will face competition for snaps.
Riddick is often referred to as a co-starter, but he struggled when he was asked to succeed in traditional running back ways. Riddick is an elite pass catcher in space, and there’s a role for that in Detroit, but he’s more slot receiver than running back.
Zenner earned himself more playing time moving forward with his end of the season performances, but gambling on him as the Lions second true running back is a risk. He seems to have locked up a roster spot heading into 2017, but he still has a lot of work to do to establish himself as an every week contributor.
Dwayne Washington has loads of potential but he is a major project. He could earn himself a spot on the roster as a fifth running back or as a kick returner in 2017.
If the Lions are going keep five running backs, it could come at the expense of fullback Mike Burton. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter used the full back position less and less as the season progressed. Burton saw snaps of: 2,1,1, 2, 2, and 0 over the last six weeks of the season.
Mike James was added to the Lions practice squad late November and then was extended a futures deal to keep him on the roster heading into the 2017 season. He will try to prove himself in training camp this summer.