Free-agent running back Jeremy Hill is confident he’ll land a job following a season-ending knee injury. Are the Detroit Lions the perfect landing spot?
A second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Auburn, Johnson shined his rookie season. Although a knee injury limited him to only 10 games, the then 21-year old rushed for 641 yards and three touchdowns posting an incredible 5.4 yards per carry.
Bevell is the former offensive coordinator for both the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks, having won a Super Bowl with the latter in 2014. He’s overseen the successful careers of future Hall of Fame running backs Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch.
The combo of Johnson and Bevell, along with a heavy investment in their offensive line, all point to the Lions becoming a run-first offense in 2019. Or, at the very least, a more balanced one than fans have witnessed in several years.
With a renewed focus on running the football in Motown, and considering Johnson’s worrisome injury history stretching all the way back to high school, the Lions’ depth at running back is of paramount importance.
Currently occupying the roster at running back pre-training camp are C.J. Anderson, Zach Zenner, Theo Riddick, Mark Thompson, and rookie Ty Johnson. Anderson was signed as a free agent this offseason and is viewed as the spiritual successor to LeGarrette Blount. Zenner is coming off a strong showing at the end of last season, posting 237 and three scores in the team’s final four contests.
Riddick just posted his first scoreless season in Detroit and the 28-year old is believed to be on the roster bubble this summer. Thompson was signed to a Reserve-Future contract in January after bouncing between the practice squads of the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets last year.
Finally, Ty Johnson is a sixth-round selection out of Maryland whose speed and playmaking ability shined this offseason, making the rookie a possible replacement for Riddick in the backfield.
Despite those names, there is a free agent running back still on the open market who seems to be a perfect fit in Detroit. And that veteran is former Cincinnati Bengals’ starter Jeremy Hill. A second-round selection out of LSU in 2014, Hill posted an impressive rookie season recording 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns averaging a Kerryon-like 5.1 yards per carry. That average was the highest in Bengals’ history since 1990.
Hill would go one to post at least nine touchdowns for each of his first three seasons in the NFL, logging a total of 43 starts in his five-year career so far. Last season, the 26-year-old signed with the New England Patriots. And in his first game with the Pats, Hill would block a punt on special teams and rush the ball four times for 25 yards. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending knee injury (torn right ACL) in the third quarter, thus abruptly ending his very short stint in New England.
Nearly recovered from his knee injury, Hill is ready to get back to work. In a recent interview with theadvocate.com, Hill was confident a job is waiting on him when he’s cleared. And the Lions appear to be the perfect landing spot. Here are three reasons why …
Detroit’s renewed commitment to their rushing attack means they’ll need a proven depth chart to back up an injury-prone Kerryon Johnson. Second, the fact Hill played for the Patriots last year draws an obvious connection with general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia as former alumni from New England.
Finally, and possibly most influential, is the fact Jeremy Hill’s former running backs coach with the Bengals, Kyle Caskey, joined the Lions’ coaching staff in the same position this offseason after spending the last nine seasons in Cincinnati. No one knows Hill better than Caskey. And it’s that familiarity along with their past success together that could land the free agent in Detroit.