Without a consistent rushing attack, the Detroit Lions’ offense is one dimensional. Now’s the time to take a chance on a free agent to kick start the running game.
The Detroit Lions rushing attack has been D.O.A. since the days of Reggie Bush. And in the past, that’s be okay. Without a dominate rusher in the backfield, Detroit has still found a way to make the playoffs twice in the last three years.
As a result, all the pressure to win has been on the shoulders of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Against the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving, we witnessed what happens when Stafford isn’t near perfect or gets injured. We saw the same thing at the end of last season, when a bad finger resulted in four straight losses, including a 26-6 defeat in the playoffs at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks.
The fact is, the Motor City needs some semblance of a rushing threat to help take pressure off of Stafford. Even if it avoids him taking an extra hit or two, a more consistent running game would only help.
The Lions currently possess the 28th ranked rushing offense in the league. Starting running back Ameer Abdullah has averaged 29.3 yards per contest in his past three games. His average yards per carry in that span is 3.1. There are currently 42 running backs in the NFL that average more than 3.1 yards per carry.
With the NFL trade deadline long past, the Lions only option of finding a better running back at this point is free agency. Here are four names currently available that Detroit might consider kicking the tires on.
The Pittsburgh Steelers just released Watson, and the Lions could benefit from it. At 6-foot-1, 240 pound, this downhill runner is exactly what this Detroit team desperately needs. The 24-year old racked up an impressive 173 yards and a score in three preseason games this year. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry doing so. A punishing back like Watson could be the perfect addition due to Detroit’s struggling offensive line.
Williams proved to be a more than adequate replacement for Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh racking up nearly 1,000 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. At 34 years old, Williams’ career is undoubtedly winding down. But with only five games left in the regular season, and considering he’s well rested, a veteran like DeAngelo might be able to provide the Lions enough of a boost to get them into the playoffs.
A former first round pick back in 2010, Mathews played his last two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. He suffered a neck injury late last year and was released by Philly in August after being medically cleared. Last season, Mathews recorded a career-high eight touchdowns, along with 661 rushing yards. Signing an injury-prone player like Mathews is a risk. But with five games to go, I believe it’s worth it.
After posting the best season of his career in 2015, the Denver Broncos promptly released Hillman. And the former third round selection has been bouncing around the league ever since. The 26-year old last landed in Dallas, but could not beat out veterans Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. Hillman has plenty of experience in the NFL and a history of success. Plus he’s still young enough to believe he’s got plenty left in the tank.