Detroit Lions: Rookie earning rave reviews early into camp

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Kerryon Johnson
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02: Kerryon Johnson /

Detroit Lions fans are hoping Kerryon Johnson is the next great running back in the Motor City. And so far in training camp, he’s been impressing teammates.

The last time the Detroit Lions had a 1,000-yard rusher in Motown it was 2013. That running back was Reggie Bush, who just barely cracked that milestone posting 1,006 yards on the ground that season. Before Bush, no Lion rusher had exceeded that mark since Kevin Jones in 2004, 10 years earlier!

Certainly, Motor City fans don’t want to wait another 10 years before seeing another 1,000-yard rusher in Detroit. But the truth of the matter is, this current version of the Pride is a much better passing team, ranking as the sixth best offense through the air last year. Running simply hasn’t been a huge priority in Detroit.

But the lack of an effective running game has certainly hurt the Lions’ offense, particularly in short yardage and goal-line opportunities. It’s one of the reasons why the Detroit’s front office invested so heavily in the rushing attack this offseason.

Adding veteran running back LeGarrette Blount fresh off a Super Bowl run with the Philadelphia Eagles was a good start. The 31-year old is only two seasons removed from posting 1,161 yards and a league-leading 18 rushing touchdowns as a former member of the New England Patriots.

Then, Detroit completed the revamp of their offensive line by using their first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to select Arkansas center Frank Ragnow. His addition should round out a starting offensive line that includes studs Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner, and two-time Pro Bowler T.J. Lang.

But the one player who is likely to impact the Lions rushing attack the most is second-round pick, Kerryon Johnson. The Auburn running back ran for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry during his final season with the Tigers.

Drawing comparisons to Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard, a divisional rival, Johnson was one of the top runners in this year’s draft class. Entering into his first training camp, the 21-year old is already turning heads in Allen Park.

Even the longtime veteran Lang has been impressed by what he’s seen early on from the rookie running back. Here’s what the 10th year offensive guard told’s Tim Twentyman about a touchdown run by Johnson on Monday where he quickly reversed direction for the score.

"“[Johnson] saw it quick, put two feet in the ground and was headed back the other direction in a hurry and he’s made a lot of really nice plays so far this camp. You can see the patience he has and the vision he runs with and today was a pretty good example of that.”"

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Since the days of Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions fans have been awaiting the arrival of the next great running back in the Motor City. Kerryon Johnson is just the latest in a long line of hopefuls that have donned the Honolulu blue. But so far, so good.