Why Is Joique Bell Still Getting Touches in the Detroit Lions' Backfield?

Joique Bell has averaged just 1.1 yards per carry so far this year. Something needs to change in the Lions' offense.

Is this some sort of sick Joique for Lions' fans? Does Jim Caldwell really think he's found a Bell cow running back in a 29-year-old who's coming off of two offseason surgeries?

[Those were bad puns.]

Seriously, though, what in the world is the Lions' coaching staff doing? So far this year, veteran running back Joique Bell has rushed the ball 20 times, totaling...22 yards. His 1.1 yards per carry average is second worst in the league among backs with 20 or more touches, ahead of only DeMarco Murray.

It's not as though Bell is the only guy in that Detroit backfield, either. Ameer Abdullah was selected in the second round of May's draft, and looking only at raw statistics, his 21 carries for 89 yards far exceeds what Bell's doing.

Advanced analytics predictably agree. So far this season, Abdullah's put together a Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP, which you can read more about in our glossary) of 0.18, which is an above average expected points added total considering rushing is less effective than passing. His 0.00 Rushing NEP per rush average is actually better than the league average of -0.02 we've seen over the last couple of seasons.

And don't think a couple of big runs are catapulting his numbers. Abdullah's Success Rate, or the percentage of runs that are contributing positively in terms of NEP, currently sits at 42.9%. That's a pretty ordinary rate, but comparing him to his teammate, Ameer Abdullah is basically Barry Sanders.

Joique Bell has a Rushing NEP per rush average of -0.32. In other words, each time he touches the ball, the Lions are effectively losing almost a third of a point. Again, remember the average hovers around -0.02.

Bell has been horrible, and among all NFL runners with 20 or more carries, he's the absolute worst in terms of NEP.

And, well, his Success Rate isn't any better. Of the 20 rushes Bell's had this season, four of them -- that's four more than zero -- have been deemed a successful run. Four! That, too, is the worst in the NFL among relatively high-volume running backs.

It's very clear what the Lions need to do. And that's not give the ball to Joique Bell. Something needs to change.