Detroit Lions: Is this a make-or-break season for Kerryon Johnson?

Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson suffered his second knee injury in two years last season. Entering Year Three, can he stay healthy?

An absolute turning point in the Detroit Lions 2019 regular season was when quarterback Matthew Stafford suffered back and hip injuries in the team’s Week Nine contest on the road against the Oakland Raiders. The Lions would lose every game without Stafford under center, ending the year with a disappointing record of 3-12-1.

Prior to Stafford’s first absence in nearly a decade, the Lions lost their starting running back Kerryon Johnson to a knee injury two weeks earlier in their Week Seven matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. It was his second knee injury in as many seasons in the Motor City as Johnson was limited to just ten games his rookie year.

Regardless, it was a great debut for the Auburn running back, posting 641 rushing yards and three touchdowns averaging an impressive 5.4 yards per game on the ground in 2018. Unfortunately, his second season didn’t build on that early promise as Johnson’s average dropped to just 3.6 yards per rushing attempt, posting a total of 403 yards and three scores in two fewer games.

Yet, the rushing attack in Detroit has been such a barren desert that Johnson’s three 100-yard rushing games over his first two seasons are the most in Motown since the days of Reggie Bush. Although his skills aren’t in question after his stellar rookie campaign, Johnson’s durability certainly is.

Here’s what Tim Twentyman of had to say about Johnson heading into 2020.

"“Johnson joined Barry Sanders as the only players in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards and average better than 4.5 yards per carry in their first 18 career games. It’s not a talent issue with Johnson, but rather an availability issue. … Johnson needs to prove he can stay healthy and be an impact player for an entire season.”"

As the 22-year old running back enters his third NFL season, Johnson’s future in the Motor City could be in jeopardy. So much so the Lions might opt to find themselves an insurance policy in the upcoming NFL draft.

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Both running backs Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson provide the Detroit Lions with some quality depth at the position behind the fragile Kerryon Johnson. Yet, another injury-plagued season could result in the Lions moving on from the recent second-rounder completely. Especially if the current front office and coaching staff experience a massive regime change in 2021.