Lions stick with running back by committee

Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson (33) runs with the ball in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys.Photo: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Sports Xchange

While calls for the Detroit Lions to give Kerryon Johnson more work have grown louder, head coach Matt Patricia said the rookie's workload is right where it needs to be one month into the season.

"I think we have a lot of really good running backs and I think we try to use them appropriately," Patricia said. "I think Kerryon played a significant amount of (last week's game against the Dallas Cowboys). He played 20 snaps of (54), that's a good amount. Plus we have two other running backs, plus we have two-minute drives and other two-minute personnel packages and things like that. There was quite a bit of reps in there for Kerryon."

Johnson, the Lions' second-round pick, has been far and away the team's best running back this year.

He has a team-high 216 yards on 38 carries, yet has played fewer snaps than third-down back Theo Riddick and has about as many rushes as veteran LeGarrette Blount (35 carries for just 95 yards).

Patricia has always favored a running back-by-committee approach, and he hinted this week that Johnson's limited workload is partly by design to keep the 204-pound rookie fresh for the entire season.

"You'll find a lot of teams where guys maybe earlier in the season (play) at a high productive level and by the time they get to the end of the season the wear and tear of that position, it's pretty extreme," Patricia said. "So you get to the end of the year and those guys aren't going to be out there as much. You kind of take a look from a big-picture standpoint, but a game by game standpoint, a play-by-play standpoint, we're obviously trying to compete and win at a high level so want to have our best players out there at all times that we can."

Johnson became the first Lions running back to rush for 100 yards a game since 2013 when he gained 101 yards on just 16 carries in a Week 3 win over the New England Patriots.

He broke a 32-yard run on the Lions' first offensive play last week against Dallas, then had just nine touches the rest of the game, one of them a steam-rolling 9-yard touchdown run.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter declined to say whether Johnson's 10 touches against the Cowboys was enough, and Johnson so far hasn't complained about his place in the Lions' running back pecking order.

"Week to week it's changing," Johnson said. "Five, 10, 15, 20, back to five (carries), you never know. So whatever touches I get, got to make them count. And I got to do that better next week."

SERIES HISTORY: 176th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 98-70-7, but the Lions swept the season series last year for the first time since 1991. One memorable meeting between these two teams came in 2015, when Aaron Rodgers completed a 61-yard Hail Mary to Richard Rodgers to give the Packers a 27-23 win at Ford Field.