The Detroit Lions need a relentless running back

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 23: Theo Riddick
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 23: Theo Riddick /

It’s no secret the Detroit Lions have gone years without a 100-yard rushing game from a single running back. They need to find that guy.

The Detroit Lions need a relentless running back. As I watched the Denver Broncos versus the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon, I saw Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch running all over the place. He ran between the tackles. He took pitches out wide. He spun away from big hits. He drug defenders that were holding onto his legs. He almost always fell forward for the extra two or three yards. I felt one thing watching all of this: Jealousy.

The Lions could really use a someone like Lynch. Or a younger version of Lynch. Too often the Lions current group of rushers are being hit at the line of scrimmage and stuffed for no gain. Blocking and running scheme are factors to this for sure, but the players themselves aren’t falling forward.

There’s been plenty of acknowledgment about the Lions poor running game. At Monday’s press conference, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell addressed the situation, as relayed by Tim Twentyman on Twitter:

With performance being half the equation according to Caldwell, let’s look at the Lions stable of players at the position.

Ameer Abdullah is the Lions unquestioned starter. He can be explosive as proven by his five total 20+ yard runs this season. But he’s still never cracked the 100-yard mark. He can catch the ball out of the backfield as well, even if not used often in that role due to the strengths of…

Theo Riddick, the Lions change of pace, third-down back. He’s a major receiving threat out of the backfield and has recently seen more action as a pure runner, but sparingly. Could he handle more touches? Possibly. But at this point, it seems the Lions are keeping their greater potential on the field with Abdullah.

Dwayne Washington is next in the pecking order. He’s a slightly bigger back that has some home run potential. The problem this year is all the injuries forcing him to the sidelines. Could he be the relentless back the Lions need? Sure, he could. He just needs to remain healthy. Oh, he also needs to get the chance. With the current staff and lineup, his opportunities have been limited.

Last but not least, Zach Zenner. The man Caldwell has said just does his job and whatever is asked of him. His also a slightly bigger back that is often used in pass protection out of the shotgun. He’s had an opportunity to prove himself at the end of last year and succeed with 60+ yards in the first half of two starts. Then the coaching staff went away from the run in the second half of those games. Could he be the answer if given the chance? Most likely, we’ll never know.

So we’re left wondering if these guys can be the bruising, relentless running backs that could thrive in the current situation. Washington and Zenner are the two with bigger size that could fill that role. If they don’t get the chance, the Lions will have to look to the draft.

Next: Should the Detroit Lions sign a free agent running back?

With Abdullah and Riddick leading the way in this pass-first offense, it’s very unlikely this front office looks for a new running back to fill that role. And more likely the Lions will continue their streak of no 100-yard games by a running back.