The Detroit Lions appear to be heading towards possessing a run-heavy offense in 2019. But have they done enough to address the running back position?
Prior to coming to the Motor City this offseason to become the Detroit Lions‘ newest offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell spent12 of the past 13 years as the OC for two different NFL franchises. Those being the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks.
During his time with each organization, Bevell had two future Hall of Fame running backs on his roster. With the Vikings, it was Adrian Peterson. With the Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch. Both amazing runners had the best seasons of their professional careers under the watchful eye of Bevell. And now the 49-year old coach is bringing his talents to Motown.
With Bevell running the offense, Detroit is expected to adopt a more run-heavy scheme in 2019. One that presumably features second-year running back Kerryon Johnson in the Peterson/Lynch role. Unfortunately, there was a reason Johnson was the sixth running back taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. And that’s due to a disturbing injury history that followed Kerryon from high school to college and into the pros.
Despite averaging an impressive 5.4 yards per rushing attempt last season, Johnson missed a whopping six games due to a knee injury. It’s a concern the Lions must be prepared for and a reason it’s unwise to view Kerryon as a workhorse back any time soon. Certainly, the presence of veteran running backs like Zach Zenner and Theo Riddick on the depth chart gives Detroit a sense of security.
The Lions also signed free agent veteran C.J. Anderson this offseason. Anderson is believed to be the spiritual successor to LeGarrette Blount in Motown, becoming the team’s new short yardage specialist.
Despite making a whopping nine selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Lions opted to wait until the sixth round to add another running back to their roster. That player being Maryland’s Ty Johnson, who seems unlikely to crack the final roster in Detroit. Mark Thompson signed a Reserve-Future contract earlier this year, but it’s likely he’ll share Johnson’s fate unless either shine this summer or if injuries open up a roster spot.
So have the Detroit Lions done enough to address their running back position? The answer appears to depend upon how much you trust the health of Kerryon Johnson. The support pieces appear to be in place around the young, talented but fragile runner. If Johnson succumbs to injury once again, I expect the Lions to be scrambling to find a suitable replacement elsewhere.