Detroit Lions clearly think highly of Kerryon Johnson

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 23: Running back Kerryon Johnson #33 of the Detroit Lions runs for yardage against the New England Patriots during the first half at Ford Field on September 23, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 23: Running back Kerryon Johnson #33 of the Detroit Lions runs for yardage against the New England Patriots during the first half at Ford Field on September 23, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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The release of Theo Riddick by the Detroit Lions is a clear sign that they want Kerryon Johnson on the field as much as possible. But can he stay healthy?

On Saturday, the Detroit Lions parted ways with running back Theo Riddick. This was after the signing of defensive lineman Mike Daniels, who was cut by the Green Bay Packers in the middle of last week.

The acquisition of Daniels is terrific. Mike is only one year removed from making the Pro Bowl in 2017. And he will add even more depth to a defensive line that should be much improved in 2019, even before this move. But the nagging question is: why was Theo Riddick cut?

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK

So, the idea is that because you sign Daniels, you have to make room on the roster. But, let’s be honest, Theo Riddick is not at the bottom (or even near the bottom) of this Detroit Lions roster. There are plenty of players worth cutting when it comes to freeing up a roster spot at the end of July. So, that doesn’t work as a legitimate reason.

What is the worst reason for the cut is hearing that the Detroit Lions saved $3.55 million in cap space with the move (source: mLive.com). According to OverTheCap.com, the Detroit Lions are currently sitting at just a shade over $26 million in cap space. Will that money get used? It is doubtful. But maybe the right combination of players will get released and the Lions will acquire some more talent.

It’s hard to see a team cut good players just so they can save money. Sometimes teams have trouble recognizing ability when they see it. But they are very good at seeing the bottom line when it puts money back in their pockets. These kinds of cuts just don’t sit well because it looks like the motivation is purely financial.

But what is most bothersome is not taking the time to see how this thing plays out through preseason. Injuries happen. If the Detroit Lions suffer an injury at the running back position, then having Riddick is that much better for the depth chart. That option is now gone.

THE EXCELLENCE OF JOHNSON

The main reason for cutting Riddick seems to be that the Lions think so highly of running back Kerryon Johnson. The Lions also seem to have no fear of a repeat injury for Kerryon from a year ago, which limited Johnson to just 10 games.

The Detroit Lions want Johnson on the field as much as possible. Riddick is a perfect back on third down because of his receiving skills, but clearly Detroit thinks Kerryon can fill that role.

The best thing about this shift to Kerryon is that he, unlike Riddick, is a real threat to run the ball – on top of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Theo simply isn’t that good of a runner between the tackles. Both Johnson and back-up running back C.J. Anderson have a ferocious running style – that should be able to consistently gain yardage.

Riddick gave the team some solid performances over the past few years. Here’s hoping his career continues to go well for years to come (except when playing the Lions, of course). And, in the end, Riddick has the chance to catch on with a team for most of training camp, which gives him time to get acclimated to his new squad. He certainly deserves that opportunity.

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It is hard to see Riddick go. But it is exciting to see what Johnson will do. He is clearly an emerging star on this team. Kerryon’s success will be a measuring stick for how good this team can be in 2019. If Johnson plays at a high level, the Detroit Lions might have a shot of getting beyond their mediocre status – and actually make some noise in the playoffs.