The Lions wide receivers have spent more time during this year’s training working on a skill that has nothing to do with running routes or catching passes.

Among the top priorities for the team’s receivers is run blocking wide receivers coach Tim Lappano said. Last year the Lions had just three rushes of 20-plus yards and while the running backs and offensive line deserve some blame those outside blocks could help spring more long runs in 2013.

“You’ve got to do a better job in the perimeter if we’re going to have a better run game” said Lappano who spent 14 years coaching running back in the NFL and college.

“I did a study for years on running backs when I was coaching them and the explosive runs that we lacked last year came from receivers not getting in on safeties and corners. The back has to beat one all the time but you have to have really good sound perimeter blocking fundamentals to be an explosive-run team besides a good runner and having the guys doing their job up front. It all works together.”

And last season it didn’t work much at all. On 215 carries running back Mikel Leshoure’s longest run was 16 yards. Joique Bell had two runs of more than 20 yards — a 67 and a 26 — on his 82 attempts and wide receiver Mike Thomas had one too a 22-yarder on a reverse.

Losing Jahvid Best last season certainly hurt the backfield’s potential for deep runs and the lack of a big-run threat led the Lions to pass more than any other team in NFL history (740 attempts) en route to a 4-12 season.

“Everybody knows how important that is to be able to run the football and you can’t just throw the ball as much as we did a year ago and be successful” Lappano said.

All of the injuries in the wide receiver corps last year didn’t help either. Just as the route running and speed fell off with the replacement receivers so did the blocking and chemistry with the offense Lappano said which is why every receiver must be able to block to make the roster.

The Lions brought in Reggie Bush with hopes he can create long runs but in order for that to happen wide receivers need to seal the edge which is why Lappano has been vocal about the importance of blocking.

“For them to score those runs we do have to lock down those corners” wide receiver Calvin Johnson said. “Every play we’ve got to be fronted up or coach is going to call us out. The coach made that clear that we need to take care of that on every play … and we’re doing a pretty good job of it so far.”

For the wide receivers key blocks don’t necessarily have to be highlights. Wideout Kris Durham said the group could simply hold blocks longer to spring backs and Lappano said it’s all about fundamentals.

“You need a guy to go up fit up and cover the defender down” Lappano said. “If you can do that and stay square to him and work your feet and keep your hands inside on him and just shield him your job’s done. A good running back at this level that’s what he needs.”

And while the wide receivers were equally responsible as the offensive line or tight ends for the lack of long runs in 2012 Bell said the backs take much of the blame.

“If anything it’s the running backs who have to do more” Bell said. “We have to make more guys miss. I’m not going to sit here and blame it on the O-line or the receivers; it’s not their fault. We get paid to make people miss.”