How does the Detroit Lions running game rank in the division?

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Theo Riddick
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 16: Theo Riddick /

We know the Detroit Lions running back situation is sort of a mess right now, but where do the other NFC North teams stack up at the position?

The Detroit Lions have put a focused effort on improving their ground game this offseason. Other teams in the division didn’t look too hard at running backs compared to the guys in Honolulu Blue.

So, where does this team stack up compared to the rest of the NFC North?

4. Green Bay Packers

We’ll start with the team that has as many questions as the Lions. The Packers experimented with wide-receiver-turned-running-back Ty Montgomery hauling the load in 2017. It didn’t last. Running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams both stepped in at different points during the season, each having their ups and downs.

Who will tote the rock for them in 2018? Jones might see the bulk to start, but it’s most likely a running back by committee this fall. And knowing how the team’s offense usually airs it out, it’s hard to put the Packers any higher on this list right now.

3. Detroit Lions

What do you get with a one-year contract for bruising running back LeGarrette Blount, promising rookie Kerryon Johnson, receiving threat Theo Riddick and a host of question marks? Third in the division in this ranking.

There are two new players and the same four guys from last year still on the roster. What role with Ameer Abdullah play? Will Zach Zenner or rookie fullback Nick Bawden poach some carries from Blount in short yardage situations?

There are just too many question marks to put rank them any higher.

2. Chicago Bears

Established starting running back Jordan Howard pushes the Bears up the list. He’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards the past two seasons gaining 4.1 yards per carry in 2017 and 5.2 in 2016.

He’s the unquestioned starter in this backfield and has the success to continue this role in 2018. Running back Tarik Cohen is a solid backup and pass-catching threat out of the backfield. This Bears team has a solid rushing combination heading into this season.

1. Minnesota Vikings

Word out of Minnesota is that running back Dalvin Cook is ahead of schedule in his return from his season-ending knee injury. He was downright scary in his first four games in 2017 and looked to be a game-changer for the Vikings.

Then injury struck and backup Latavius Murray stepped up to the plate to the tune of 842 yards and 8 touchdowns while averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Oh, and he did that while sharing time with Jerick McKinnon who accounted for 570 yards and 3 touchdowns. If Cook returns to form from his injury, this team is set at the position.

These are rankings based on what we know today and how each team leans on the running game. We don’t know what team will be hit with injury or which players will come out from the shadow of their depth chart to blow defenses away. And we know these teams can certainly win without a clear solution in the running game.

The bigger question is will it matter for everyone in this “Air and Space Division” as dubbed by ESPN writer Kevin Seifert nearly 10 years ago? With big-name quarterbacks (and an up-and-comer) on every team in this division, the running game has certainly taken the back seat in the old “Black and Blue Division.” We’ll see if things change this year.

Next: The Detroit Lions All-Time Offensive Team

Before seeing a snap from these teams this season, how do you see the running situation for each team stacking up? Let us know in the comment section below.