Lions Offensive Roster Preview: The running back position looks strong and competitive
The Detroit Lions have a hard-fought battle ahead of them in camp at this position. Once considered a position of weakness, with little to no depth, the Lions find themselves with a handful of good runners that have an argument to make the final roster in 2020.
There are only two roster locks this year and they are third-year runner Kerryon Johnson and rookie D’Andre Swift. Johnson has looked solid in most of his NFL outings, with flashes of brilliance on the field. Injuries seem to be a constant theme for him however and he has yet to stay fully healthy for a full season.
Over his first two seasons, Johnson has played in only 18 games out of a possible 32, carrying the ball a total of 231 times for just over 1,000 yards and at a clip of 4.5 yards per carry and six touchdowns. He has been somewhat involved in the passing game, catching 42 balls for 340 yards and two touchdowns. He has been serviceable when playing but has not been the game-breaker the Lions were hoping for when they drafted him in round two of the 2018 NFL draft.
That’s why they proceeded to take Georgia stand-out D’Andre Swift in round two of this year’s draft. Swift has the look of a running back that can be something special at the professional level. He is quick behind the line of scrimmage, has good vision, and has what may be the most devastating dead-leg move in the game.
Swift routinely split carries at Georgia, as they constantly pump-out NFL level runners, which gives him less mileage than most college runners bring into the NFL with them. He only recorded 440 carries over three years, piling up 2,885 yards and 20 touchdowns in the process. He was also quite active in the passing game, catching 73 balls for over 660 yards and five touchdowns.
Swift brings a multi-faceted approach to the game that the Lions don’t currently have on the team. He will be effective both inside and outside the tackles and will be able to stay on the field all three downs, not tipping whether Detroit is going to run or throw the ball.
After those two runners, the Lions have three guys who will be vying to make the team. Those three are Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, and rookie Jason Huntley. Scarbrough brings a thundering presence no one else on the team can replicate so there’s a good chance he is able to make the team as a power-runner and quality third running back.
Between Ty Johnson and Huntley, they offer similar skill-sets but Huntley has the edge on Johnson in the speed and special teams’ department. Johnson might be the better catch-passer, but with Swift now in Detroit, that is not as big of a plus as it might have once been. In the battle between these two backs, Huntley likely has the edge due to his speed and return abilities.