Publish date:

Lions Must Address Lack of Explosive Plays in Run Game

Lions have not had enough explosive run plays in recent seasons

The Lions have a well-known history of not being able to run the football. 

Since the Lions drafted Matthew Stafford in 2009, the Lions have ranked dead last in the NFL in total rushing yards. 

In fact, they've only averaged 95.2 yards rushing per game in the last 11 years. 

Not once have the Lions finished in the top half of the league on the ground during that span.

The Arizona Cardinals are the only other team in the NFL to have not averaged at least 100 yards rushing per game for at least one season in that time frame.

Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough brought a semblance of a running game in 2019, but it still wasn't consistently good enough. 

Both backs have failed to provide a big-play threat out of the backfield.

Last season, Johnson had 113 rushing attempts. Only one rush went for 20 yards and it was his season-high. He didn't even have another run of over 15 yards in his eight games played. That is quite a drop-off from his rookie production in 2018 which resulted in six 20-plus yard runs on 118 carries -- almost the same number of carries he had in 2019.

In 2019, only five percent of Johnson's yards came from runs of 15 or more yards -- the 4th lowest percentage of all running backs in the NFL who saw at least 20 percent of attempts. 

That figure is likely a big reason why Johnson's run per carry average dipped from 5.4 yards per attempt in 2018 to 3.6 YPC in 2019.

Meanwhile, Scarbrough accumulated 89 attempts in his six games played and had two runs of 20-plus yards with a long of 30 yards. 

In his first NFL season of seeing LIVE action, Scarbrough was never labeled as a big threat to break off a long run, but he still outpaced the more nimble Johnson.

I would be remiss to not at least mention the 2019 rookie RB Ty Johnson. In his 59 attempts, he one rush of over 20 yards and two over 15 yards. 

At this time, he is a threat to take it to the house when he has some space, but he wasn't utilized enough to make a huge impact. Maybe that could change in 2020.

Recommended Lions Articles


5 Questions with Bill Huber of SI Packer Central

Bill Huber of SI Packer Central answers five questions regarding the Detroit Lions' Week 2 matchup with the Green Bay Packers.


What Lions Can Learn from Saints to Defeat Packers

Read more on what the Detroit Lions can learn from the New Orleans Saints' Week 1 win over the Green Bay Packers.


6 Lions Players to Watch against Packers

Read more on the six Detroit Lions players to watch Monday night against the Green Bay Packers.

Very important to note, the blocking and scheme upfront can play a huge role in a running back's success. 

The Lions did grade out as the 23rd-best run-blocking team, according to Pro Football Focus. 

The potential loss of guard Graham Glasgow in free agency won't help that matter, either. 

Still, whether it's going to take better blocking or upgrading the running back room, the Lions have plenty of work to do.

There will be plenty of high-end running backs available in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft and even a few in free agency. 

Who the Lions could potentially target is an entirely separate topic.

Needless to say, for the Lions' offense to be more successful and dangerous in what will be a critical 2020 campaign, the rushing attack is going to have to do a better job of helping out Detroit's high-powered passing offense led by Stafford. 

There are a couple of different routes the Lions could take to find a more dynamic running attack, and it should be a high priority this offseason. 


What Matt Patricia Can Learn from Andy Reid

Who is Top Free Agent in 2020?

How Much is CB Darius Slay Worth?

Darius Slay May Be Seeking North of $15 Million Annually