Bob Quinn ups expectations for the Detroit Lions running game in 2018

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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Riddick scores
TAMPA, FL – DECEMBER 10: Theo Riddick #25 of the Detroit Lions runs into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. The Lions won 24-21. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Measures to look at

The Lions rushing attack was not just last in yardage production, but also last in yards per carry (3.4 ypc).  Our first down percentage (16.0%) was last, too. We were one of seven teams without a run of 40 yards for the 2017 season. So, not only were we not getting much each carry, we also didn’t occasionally bust a big run, either. As Bob Quinn has noted, that is the fault of everyone who blocks or runs during a run play, including receivers.

If they could simply attain four yards per carry, which is less than average, without running more times, they would have ranked 27th last year. The Lions were 31st in attempts, in 2017, with 363. They would average 108 yards a game if they attempted only five more runs per game, as well (22.7 in 2017). Last year that would’ve been seventeenth of 32. It does not take huge changes to be very effective. I could live with a seventeenth ranked run game, at least for this next year.

Last year’s rushing leader, Kareem Hunt, was a third round rookie. So, a turn-around is possible. The talent is better than in any recent memory. If things do get fixed, this draft will likely be a big reason.  If not, I would expect more changes.

Side effects

Other numbers that could be helped by a more consistent run game are quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s sack numbers. Obviously, injecting two rookies who didn’t give up one sack their last year potentially helps the pass blocking. More talent will always help.

Another way that running the ball helps though, is to stop teams from pinning their ears back as pass rushers. When defensive linemen have to account for the running backs, they have to delay going after the quarterback. They also don’t penetrate as far into the backfield, for fear that a runner will go past them. The Lions tried to simulate outside runs with screens to Golden Tate, for example. It did help the offense generate yards, but still makes the point to attack the quarterback.

The Lions still managed a fourth place in passing touchdowns, and a top six pass game in yards. Detroit was tied for first in plays over 60 yards, despite their extinct run game. However, the 47 sacks given up is tied for seventh worst among the field of 32 teams.

It logically follows that if you could keep any pressure away from Matt Stafford, he would probably be in better shape come playoff time. The new linemen, plus the additions at running back and fullback, should mean new levels of production both when running the ball, and when passing.

Next: Detroit Lions: 15 best first-round draft picks of all-time

What are your expectations? How are you feeling about the offense and specifically about the run game? Did Bob Quinn do enough, or too much, to fix the lingering problems? Let me know in the comments. Follow me on Twitter, CoachKirk @mkirk2, for more Lions and Detroit sports content!