Are The Detroit Lions Continuing To Do Something Weird With Nick Bellore?
Few Detroit Lions fans expected to see Nick Bellore on the field much outside of special teams in 2017. He was somewhere between the 45th and 53rd player on the roster. His special teams work had always been above average, but his linebacker play was poor to middling. This was not a player that the anyone expected to make a major impact in all three aspects of the game.
Bellore played 65.39% of the team’s special teams snaps. He narrowly edged out Steve Longa and Charles Washington for the highest percentage on the team in 2017. That is where Bellore makes his money in the NFL. Everything else he does is just icing on the cake. Players like him do not find recognition for their sacrifice. Bellore played almost as many snaps on special teams as Ameer Abdullah played on offense. Yet that isn’t the reason anyone is bothering to write about Bellore right now.
Will Nick Bellore Be The Detroit Lions Fullback?
It is the 13 snaps that Bellore played on the offensive side of the ball in 2017 that are suddenly very intriguing. The reason for that is Thursday’s Organized Team Activity that was open to the beat writers. Bellore taking snaps at fullback. It’s not just that he was taking snaps at fullback that is intriguing, but the fact that he was wearing a white jersey. What that means, is that Bellore was wearing the color of an offensive player, not a defensive player.
The Lions drafted a fullback, Nick Bawden, in the seventh round of the draft. Why would they be lining up Bellore at this position rather than his native linebacker? The simple reason is that the Lions don’t have room for him at linebacker. The fundamental change on the defense puts the onus on linebackers to make plays. Bellore is as far from a playmaker as you can get on defense.
The Lions only have two traditional off the ball linebacker spots in their new scheme. They may play a third in short yardage situations, but the 4-2, and 3-3 formations of nickel defense are their new bread and butter. Even when playing a 3-3 defense, the third linebacker will often be on or very close to the line of scrimmage. This puts a lot of pressure on the other linebackers in pass coverage and requires them to flow laterally to the ball in run support. He does not excel in either of those categories, and he is certainly not a pass rusher.
Bellore wasn’t great at fullback in 2017. There is a pretty good chance this move is temporary and designed to give Bawden a break during practices more than as a full-time move. If it is not, Bellore has a difficult road to making the team in 2018. General managers do not often like cutting their draft picks as rookies. Bob Quinn showed in 2017 with Brad Kaaya and Pat O’Connor that he is willing to correct his mistakes immediately. If Bellore does outplay the rookie, however, he will get the job as the Detroit Lions fullback. If the team is only going to use a fullback 13 times, then he may be a better use of the roster spot than Bawden.