Is Kerryon Johnson on His Way out of Detroit?
First, the Lions drafted running backs D'Andre Swift and Jason Huntley this offseason. And then, they decided to cut Huntley.
However, the Lions went out, and immediately signed veteran running back Adrian Peterson after that.
They say, "Actions speak louder than words," and those actions are saying the Lions are anything but happy with running back Kerryon Johnson. And why should they be?
After bursting onto the scene in 2018 with a 5.4-yard per carry average, that tailed off quickly to a 3.6-yard per carry average last season.
And after playing in only 10 games in 2018, he followed that up by only playing in eight games last season.
#33 RB Kerryon Johnson - 5-foot-11, 211 pounds
Grade: C- (average; nothing special about the player)
Downhill, one-gear runner with good vision and decreasing playing speed and physicality.
When I looked at his full body of work from early on in his college career at Auburn to last week against Chicago, each and every year there was a noticeable decrease in his energy and speed. The game is noticeably taking a toll on him with all the sustained and well-documented injuries.
Absolutely looks like he is falling out of favor in Detroit, as he had limited touches in Week 1 and was not on the field in critical situations. Earlier in his career in Detroit, he looked like a tough, gliding paper airplane with a knack for finding and exploiting holes and openings. I am not remotely seeing that early on this season. Still shows some toughness. But, in that Chicago game, looked and felt like a frustrated player who was giving up. Tailing off quickly. One of those players who has an arrow going down at this point of his career. Looks like he is wearing down and wearing out. Durability and production are big question marks going forward.
Why the Lions cut Huntley to keep Johnson does not make sense to me. Clearly, Huntley had upside and potential, while Johnson seems to be on an icy, downhill slide.
Peterson came in off waivers from Washington, and ran like he was possessed against Chicago.
He was showing vision, balance and ferocious physicality.
Swift, meanwhile, was clearly the No. 2 back, and he was on the field when the game was on the line.
The changing of the guard in the Lions backfield could be felt during the Chicago game.
If Peterson keeps running hard and the Lions want to see what they have in Swift, Johnson is going to be seeing the field less and less.
While watching the Chicago game, it seemed like Lions management and coaching wanted to give Johnson a few carries here and there, almost like they are trying to prove it to themselves that he is losing it.
Peterson came in right after Johnson, and looked like a battering ram.
Johnson, by comparison, looked like a door-knocker, hanging on the front door.
Yes, it is only one game, but there was a very distinct difference between the two runners.
While Peterson is a surefire Hall of Famer, it is not a good sign when an old-timer comes in and runs way harder than a young player like Johnson.
I say old-timer affectionately, as Peterson has my respect in a league that chews up and spits out players on an average of 3.3 years, according to ESPN.
Peterson was able to find substantial chunks of yardage behind the same offensive line that Johnson could hardly get going behind. That is also not a good sign.
Johnson looks like a player who is going to live up almost exactly to that 3.3-year career longevity average.
I believe the Lions brought in Peterson because they were not happy with anyone they had as a potential featured back. And in this make-it or break-it year potentially for head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, they just can not afford to play around.
It is for this reason that I would not expect Johnson to be around in Detroit much longer.
The organization may give him another game or two to get some touches here and there, just to try to turn the key in the ignition a couple more times for old times' sake.
But, with what is riding on the line this season and being behind the 0-1 proverbial eight-ball, I have to wonder if and when those touches and opportunities will come.
The only reason the Lions might hang onto Johnson is just in case the injury bug rips through the backfield.
But, beyond that, if Johnson does indeed survive the season, I would not expect to see him back in Detroit in 2021 — unless he turns it around.
I just do not think he has enough gas left in the tank to go the distance.
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