Where does Kerryon Johnson's injury leave the Detroit Lions' running game?
Johnson placed on injured reserve with knee injury
DETROIT – The woes of the Detroit Lions, already saddled with a three-game losing streak, got worse this week as RB Kerryon Johnson was placed on injured reserve.
Johnson will be out at least eight games. That leaves the Lions with J.D. McKissic, rookie Ty Johnson, Tra Carson (signed from Green Bay) and Paul Perkins (signed from the New York Giants) at running back.
Matt Patricia told reporters the Lions would go with a running back by committee approach, splitting the carries between two or three running backs.
While running backs will split carries, there's still a few different ways the Lions can handle the run game without Kerryon.
Let's look at what the Lions could in Kerryon's absence.
Business as usual
The Lions may not change much of anything without Kerryon. In this approach, the Lions will continue to run with a fullback and out of multiple tight end sets. Ty Johnson will get most of the carries as he's the more every down back. J.D. McKissic will spell him and act as the go-to receiving option out of the backfield.
If the Lions do continue what they've been doing, it'll be interesting to watch what opposing defenses do in response. According to Next Gen Stats, Kerryon Johnson has faced eight or more defenders in the box on 32% of his carries this season, which ranks as the fifth-highest percentage in the league.
The Lions seem to be doing a good job of making blocks and setting up their run plays. Now it's up to the Lions' running backs to make some plays with their new opportunities.
Mix it up
The Lions have options if they want to supplement their run offense without Kerryon Johnson. It's possible the Lions turn to more of their playmakers to do that.
They may run more screens, whether it's to T.J. Hockenson, receivers or to the running backs.
They could install new plays to get Ty Johnson and McKissic out in space, something they weren't doing enough of with Kerryon.
The Lions could also get other players involved like Jamal Agnew. While that's not going to become a regular thing, if the Lions need an impact play or want to give their run game different looks, Agnew could see additional snaps on offense.
Make a trade or sign a free agent
The NFL's trade deadline is next week. The trade of Quandre Diggs has only ignited more rumors about the Lions bringing in a running back.
Names like Kenyan Drake and Melvin Gordon are in the mix.
While a trade for someone like Gordon seems unlikely, it seems the Lions will have to bring someone in to build up the running backs room.
When thinking about who the Lions could bring in as a free agency, any names with connections to the Patriots or Seattle Seahawks when Darrell Bevell was there immediately comes to mind.
We'll see if Bob Quinn makes any moves over the next few days.
Abandon the run
This is the completely unlikely option, but the Lions could ditch their plans to establish the run and get pass happy. Matthew Stafford has the weapons to do it if the Lions wanted to.
He's also shown the ability to thrive in a pass first offense. Stafford had one of his better statistical seasons in 2011 where he threw for over 5,000 yards with 41 touchdowns, averaging 41 throws per game. In 2019, Stafford has only thrown more than 40 passes in two games.
As mentioned, flipping to a pass first offense is unlikely. Stafford is having one of his better seasons in recent memory and is playing very efficiently. Plus, while the Lions haven't run as effectively as they want, a lot of what they're able to do in the pass game is because of their commitment to run.
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