Is the Detroit Lions ground game running on empty?
By Robert Jones
Pressuring the offensive line
When Matt Patricia was hired he had two ideals he wanted to implement; the first was the multiple defense that was used in New England while he was the Patriots defensive coordinator. The second was to instill a ground game in a franchise that has struggled to run the ball with any kind of real consistency since Barry Sanders retired.
If we examine the players that have occupied the Lions backfield since Barry left the Lions for the green pastures of retirement, there aren’t too many if any names that stand out as outstanding ball-carriers.
As a matter-of-fact, I feel very confident that Kerryon Johnson is the best running back the Lions have had since Barry. Unfortunately, injuries have been a problem in both of his seasons in Detroit and may continue in the years to come.
We also have to have concerns considering he has not been more productive this year.
Sure opponents have been game-planning for Kerryon and the focus will probably shift a little in his absence, but this ground game which seemed like it should be better this season has sputtered for the most part with the only real highlight being the way Kerryon was able to run all over the Kansas City Chiefs defense.
So the onus has now shifted even more so on to the offensive line. It will be their job to create room for the posse of backs that will be trying to replace Kerryon.
In general, the Lions offensive line has been solid, but they have certainly not been spectacular. They have been working hard to build chemistry which should translate into being more productive, but the truth is that while they have improved as the season has worn on, they have been much better at protecting Matthew Stafford than they have been at opening holes for the ground game.
This is in part why the running game hasn’t been more productive.
As I mentioned earlier, yes opposing defenses have been game-planning to stop Kerryon, which does put more pressure on the offensive line to do their job and open up room to roam, but with Matthew Stafford still in the backfield, opponents aren’t exactly selling out to stop the run either.