Detroit Lions: Zach Zenner vs. Everybody


Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and in 2015 Detroit Lions fans are witnessing one first hand with undrafted rookie, Zach Zenner.

Following the Lions first preseason game against the New York Jets, all the hype in the Motor City was surrounding rookie running back Ameer Abdullah. The former Nebraska Cornhusker was certainly deserving of the popularity too, having streaked and scampered through the Jets D in his first game as a pro.

Throughout the next few weeks however the buzz in Detroit would begin to shift from one rookie running back to another.


If you’re unaware of who Z2K is then I’ll gladly enlighten you. The acronym comes from Detroit Lions linebacker Daryl Tapp, and was given to undrafted rookie, Zach Zenner. The cause for the nickname? How about three straight 2,000+ yard seasons at South Dakota State University where Zenner spent his time studying pre-med.

Call it a strange career to rely on if football doesn’t work out.

The fact of the matter is however, that Zenner took a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that was supposed to be all about “dress rehearsal” and the starters, and turned it into the Zach Zenner show. Following the exhibition contest, Zenner could be found atop not only the Lions, but the NFL leaderboard in rushing yards as well.

Not bad for an UDFA.

Here is what head coach, Jim Caldwell had to say following the Detroit Lions 22-17 come-from-behind victory last week, via 97.1 The Ticket and MLive:

"“He’s got a little knack. He can find holes, and he can get his shoulders square. He’s a little bit faster than you think, he’s a little stronger than you think and he catches the ball well.”"

It’s also worth noting that Zenner showed some of those qualities in the first two preseason games too. He led the team in rushing and total offense in both contests, but so much of that production came late against New York and Washington that a lot of his credit was discredited due to his success coming against guys unlikely to be employed next month.

“I was able to find a little bit of a crease and just drive through.” – Zach Zenner

That’s why it was so interesting to see the Lions send him out there for the second series against Jacksonville. The third preseason game is supposed to be about giving long looks to the starters, not fourth-string running backs. The Lions however were apparently as curious as we were about what they have in Zach Zenner, and sent him out there for some reps against the ones.

Shortly after, Zenner broke off a 41-yarder around the right side.

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Prior to Friday evening, consensus around the Lions was that Zenner was great — but was unlikely to make the final 53 man roster. Following the game however, things definitely changed.

It seems very unlikely at this point that Zenner would survive in a Lions uniform on the practice squad — the place he seemed destined for pre-Jacksonville. With that in mind, it also seems impossible that the Detroit Lions don’t make room or this kid on their final roster for 2015.

Especially considering the concerns with Joique Bell.

Zach Zenner packs a punch, a toughness and a chip that the Lions organization needs more of. Personally, even I’ve come full circle. Last Wednesday on Lions Central Radio I stated that I did not believe Zenner would make the team come cuts.

At this point however, I can say with confidence that I feel I was probably wrong.

The Jaguars might be a terrible team, but they do have a formidable defense and Zenner looked like he belonged in every way — totaling 55 yards by halftime. His worst touch gained six yards. In fact, he failed to gain five yards on only three of his carries for the game.

And one was the game-winner.

Zenner now has 162 yards for the preseason, which again, leads the league. The last Lions running back to lead the league in preseason rushing?

Joique Bell.

At this point, Zenner has to make this team, right?

Nate Williams is an editor and columnist for of the FanSided Network. For further Detroit Lions news, rumors and analysis, be sure to follow him on twitter at @SLR_Nate!

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