When new OC Joe Lombardi was in New Orleans, the Saints mixed in three or four backs each game, as well as a fullback, and each back had a variety of assignments.
The most likely scenario in Detroit is for Joique Bell to play the Pierre Thomas role as the “starter” who receives the bulk of the inside carries, particularly on first and second down, while also being involved in the screen game.
Reggie Bush fills into the Darren Sproles role as a player who’ll receive some carries but often line up as a receiver and be dangerous on third down. The most carries Bush had during his five seasons in New Orleans was 157, and even though he’s a better runner now, he’s still most effective in space.
Then there’s Theo Riddick, who will earn more playing time because of his versatility as a runner and potential slot receiver. Riddick looked great during the offseason, and after being the No. 3 back out of camp last year, there’s no reason to expect a change in 2014.
If the Lions use their backs like the Saints, there will be many times where two backs will be on the field together. Bell and Bush could both be in the backfield, Bush and Riddick could line up out wide, Bell could be out wide with Riddick in the backfield — the options are endless.
The uncertainty starts with Bush, who averaged 15.9 carries per game last season compared to the 8.7 carries he saw in five seasons with the Saints. Even though his role was different while in New Orleans, he averaged 10.0 PPG in standard formats (RB18-type numbers) and 14.9 PPG (RB11 numbers) in 60 games with the Saints, though his catches may be under pressure if Theo Riddick lives up to the hype. Bell figures to be a good value in the 5th round, but Bush's role is harder to pin down. He should be a solid RB2 in PPR formats if Lombardi uses Bush in the same role as he had while with the Saints.