Detroit Lions building clear one-two punch running back combo

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: LeGarrette Blount
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: LeGarrette Blount /

The Detroit Lions cluttered backfield is starting to take shape as a clear one-two punch from the running backs is starting to emerge.

After one preseason game, there’s plenty for Detroit Lions fans to be happy about from the running back position. Rookie Kerryon Johnson made some explosive plays, even if his highlight run of the night – a would-be 57-yard scamper – was called back by a penalty.

Johnson was the Lions leading rusher topping out at 34 yards that counted. Following him was running back LeGarrette Blount grabbing 21 yards. Those are some low yardage totals for the top two running backs in this game, but they are also telling of the Lions plans.

Wait, didn’t Ameer Abdullah show up against the Raiders and punch one into the end zone for a score? He sure did. And he totaled 16 yards on four carries. His one catch for seven yards shows he didn’t really jump off the stat sheet. It just goes to show, putting points on the board with a touchdown will get you positive reviews.

There’s nothing wrong with Abdullah getting props for his play on Friday. There’s also nothing wrong with saying he could very well be auditioning for a trade to another team. There’s a logjam at the position on this roster. While having capable depth is a positive aspect of team building, having too much talent at a position that rarely fields two players at once isn’t the best use of roster space.

Johnson, an early second-round draft pick, is certain to be in the team’s plans, and his performance on Friday night certainly helps. Blount is getting more carries as head coach Matt Patricia is determined to instill some hard-nosed football into the offense. Blount is also putting the moves on linebackers in the passing game during practice this week.

Where does that leave running backs Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington? Riddick’s role seems fairly carved out with his proven hands out of the backfield and ability to help carry the load. Zenner and Washington are fighting for roster spots. But if Abdullah generates some trade interest from other teams, the Lions might be tempted if the price is right.

The formation of the Johnson-Blount, one-two punch makes everyone behind them expendable for the right price. Carrying six running backs on the 53-man roster would be a surprise. Yet, getting something of value in return for one of the 3rd or 4th string guys would almost make too much sense.

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It’s a great problem to have as the Detroit Lions move toward the regular season, and it’s something everyone will be keeping an eye on as the preseason progresses.