Adrian Peterson to the Lions: Reasons to be concerned
Injuries have already brought us to this?
The Lions ran through eight running backs last year, but this time around, there was supposedly plenty of depth to safeguard against another Paul Perkins/Wes Hills/et al. situation. Instead, Kerryon Johnson (again) has been hobbled, and D’Andre Swift has missed time in camp with a hip injury.
While Peterson’s career certainly puts him close to NFL royalty, feeling like you need to turn to a long-past-his-prime free agent right before the first game is even played isn’t typically a good thing. See below.
Recent Lions history says this won’t end (or start) well
Peterson’s signing marks the third year in a row that a running back on the tail end of their career joined the Lions in free agency. While the best case scenario seems to be that Peterson does enough to get the ground game rolling through September and the others can get healthy and caught up in the offense, recent history is plenty of reason to temper expectations.
LeGarrette Blount had negative yardage midway through September in 2018, and C.J. Anderson lasted only two games before being sent on his way. Peterson already is the oldest 1,000 yard rusher in NFL history (1,042 yards in 2018 at age 33), but football is unkind to backs over 30, and even less kind to Lions backs since Barry Sanders.
That Jason Huntley draft pick…
Drafting Huntley, now the fourth running back taken by Detroit in the past three drafts, was a stretch to begin with, but one I tried to talk myself into. Huntley was vastly undersized, even at the college level, and a lack of vision and instinct running between the tackles meant his usage would always be limited.
Still, I hoped his breakaway speed, receiving ability, and being a true kick return ace would be enough to make up for that. Maybe in a different year with more training camp and organized time, Huntley would have found a spot.
Instead, releasing him (he got picked up by the Eagles) is something of an admission that it wasn’t a good pick all along. For all the moves with running backs in the draft, this is still where the roster is at, scrambling at the last second for someone to carry the rock.
Like I said, there’s a case to be made either way for what exactly the Adrian Peterson deal signifies for the Detroit Lions. It’s a low risk deal with decent potential for modest but immediate results. Still, from another angle, the Lions’ backfield situation looks as tenuous as ever, and the season hasn’t even started.