The Detroit Lions backfield could be a horn of plenty

Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Do the Lions finally have the right formula to run the ball?

It’s no secret that since Barry Sanders suddenly retired back in 1999 the Lions have had great difficulty running the ball. A friend of mine suggested that perhaps karma is paying the Lions back for being blessed with one of the greatest runners the game has ever known, but doing nothing to help him win a ring.

However we choose to look at it, it’s been far too long since the Lions ground game has been able to strike fear in opposing defenses. But perhaps that is all about to change.

After many failed attempts to revitalize the rushing attack in the Motor City, maybe, just maybe, the Lions have the right formula to do just that.

Something always seems to go wrong for the Lions. The defense stinks or they can’t run the ball or before Matthew Stafford, they couldn’t throw it. No team is perfect, but every season one team wins the Super Bowl because they minimize their mistakes and maximize their ability to be good enough on defense and offense to win it all.

Fans often like to think it’s about star players, but while they don’t hurt, it’s actually about the ability of a team to compliment itself. Great quarterbacks are made better by having receivers that catch the ball. Great running backs are given room to roam by effective offensive lines that open holes.

The same thing on defense. A great pass-rush makes the secondary better. Great linebacker play improves a team’s presence on the line of scrimmage.

It is sort of cylindrical. In the case of the 2020 Lions, their ability to have success on the ground could very well stem from their 2019 performance.

Last season Matthew Stafford played like an MVP candidate until his injury and he has one of the best receiving trios in the game returning along with second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson, who should be ready for a more productive sophomore campaign.

The Lions passing game has every chance of being not just explosive, but incendiary.

Meanwhile, after Stafford was sidelined to injury last year, the Lions rushing attack actually became more productive. In the first eight games when Matthew played, the Lions averaged 25.8 carries a game for 96 yards per contest and 3.7 yards a tote.

After the Lions were left with their quarterback dregs taking over for Matthew in the second half of the season they averaged 25 carries a contest while gaining 110.1 yards a game at 4.4 yards a carry.

Sure backup passer Jeff Driskel helped the numbers in the three games he played with his mobility, but with opponents actually watching for the run since no one believed the Lions’ backup passers could hurt them, Detroit was still productive and put up respectable numbers on the ground.