Detroit Lions running back named NFL’s best after preseason debut
The excitement surrounding the Detroit Lions running game was justified following the group’s performance in their preseason opener.
The Detroit Lions went into this offseason with one main goal on offense: Run the ball better. Coming off their second season in three years with the league’s worst rushing attack, the Lions can no longer afford to place the onus of their offense solely on the arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is entering his 10th NFL season.
Therefore general manager Bob Quinn and company went about the business of bulking up their offensive line and backfield earlier this year. The Lions signed 31-year old veteran running back and human hammer LeGarrette Blount as a free agent.
The Detroit used their first two selections in the 2018 NFL Draft to add Arkansas center Frank Ragnow and Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson to the roster.
Combined with a rejuvenated Ameer Abdullah, the trio of the former second-round running back plus Blount and Johnson put on a show in the Lions’ first preseason game last Friday against the Oakland Raiders.
Blount finished the game with five carries for 21 yards. Abdullah had 16 rushing yards and a touchdown on four attempts. Ameer also had a seven-yard reception. But the real star of the backfield was Johnson.
The 21-year old rookie runner officially had 34 rushing yards on seven carries and 33 receiving yards on four catches in his preseason debut. He also had a 57-yard run called back due to a penalty that showcased his big play ability.
Pro Football Focus actually named Johnson the NFL’s best running back in the first week of the preseason following his performance against the Raiders on Friday.
"“Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions – 80.7. The final stat sheet says nine attempts for 41 yards, but Johnson had more than that on one scintillating second half carry that got called back with a penalty. On the day, he had three broken tackles and 37 of his yards came after contact.”"
Following his debut, is it any wonder why the Lions are so high on Johnson’s potential. The second rounder appears to be an all-around back, who excels as a workhorse runner, receiver out of the backfield and in pass protection.
If Kerryon Johnson continues to string together solid performances like this in the preseason, it might be difficult for the Detroit Lions to keep him stashed behind veterans LeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah on the depth chart. But Johnson does come with a troubling injury history. So the Lions could look to limit his snaps early. Yet his potential is so great, the rookie may force himself into the starting role.