The Detroit Lions have a need for a home run threat in their backfield. And this rookie running back’s speed has been standing out says one team insider.
The Detroit Lions made nine total selections in the 2019 NFL Draft. But they opted not to draft a running back until the sixth round, picking up Maryland’s Ty Johnson with the 186th overall selection. With Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Zach Zenner, Mark Thompson, and Theo Riddick all already on the running back depth chart, the Day Three selection could have a hard time making the final-53 in Motown.
That is unless Ty Johnson brings something to the table none of the other running backs in Detroit have. And apparently, the rookie does. The former Terrapin ran an unofficial 4.26 forty yard dash at his pro day. This from a player NFL.com analyst and former running back Maurice Jones-Drew wrote lacked explosiveness and speed prior to the draft.
His sophomore season in Maryland, Ty Johnson averaged an incredible 9.1 yards per carry. He rushed for 1,004 yards and posted seven touchdowns in 13 games. Talk about big play ability.
And it’s that home run threat that may ultimately earn Ty Johnson a spot on the final roster in the Motor City. Here’s what DetroitLions.com’s Mike O’Hara reported about the rookie running back following the first day of minicamp.
"“[Ty Johnson’s] speed is a given, and it stands out at some point every day. He had a double dip Tuesday. First was a short catch over the middle going from his left to right that turned into a big gain when he accelerated to get to the sideline to turn upfield. Later he made a jump cut to get through traffic at the line of scrimmage. Impressive.”"
Each one of the Lions’ running backs seems to bring a little something different to the table. Kerryon Johnson appears to be a budding superstar who, when healthy, could be an effective workhorse back. Anderson proved he could be a powerful between the tackles runner last season with the Los Angeles Rams.
Zenner is your classic high-effort, short-yardage back who adds a bit of juice to the offense. Riddick is a terrific receiver out of the backfield and he can be a great all-around playmaker at times. But where Ty Johnson may make his stamp is with pure acceleration and speed.
The rookie could find an early niche on the Lions’ offense as a bit of a gadget player where Detroit find ways to get him the ball in space. But at 5-foot-10, 212 pounds, Ty Johnson also has the build to run the ball inside as well and is an underrated receiver.
But the Detroit Lions’ depth chart is currently overloaded at running back. So Ty Johnson may have to make his bones on special teams as a returner in order to nab a roster spot. But it sounds like the rookie is impressing early, possibly giving new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell some ideas on how to implement his speed this upcoming season.