Detroit’s offense, in its most recent incarnation, has been predicated on a pass-happy assault between the boundaries. While Matthew Stafford was able to manufacture victories through white knuckles and out of thin-air, it’s clear the team is in dire need of a running game to help bring balance, versatility and sustainability to their offense in 2017.
Doug Farrar of Bleacher Report manned the rankings of every backfield in the NFL, and as some might suspect, the Lions didn’t fare so well, checking in at 27 on the list and the third-worst rushing attack in the NFC.
Farrar thinks the Lions have a worthwhile collection of adaptable backs, but finds the lack of production to be disconcerting, especially when given context:
The entire group of backs had just 10 plays of 15 yards or more in 2016—for context, Ezekiel Elliott and LeSean McCoy tied for the league lead with 22 each. And Detroit's backs broke just 38 tackles on rushing plays (Jay Ajayi led the league with 58 broken tackles on the ground).
Also mentioned in the piece is general manager Bob Quinn’s decision to pass on adding another running back through the draft, the team’s lack of power between the tackles outside of Zach Zenner and the diminutive stature—and durability concerns—of its two premier options out of the backfield in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.
Detroit’s backfield showed real promise early in 2016, but Abdullah’s foot injury midway through Week 2 against the Titans derailed everything.
The upside to all of this? The Lions didn’t have the worst backfield in the NFC North! That dubious honor belongs to the Green Bay Packers—ranked 32nd on Farrar’s list. After losing Eddie Lacy in free agency, the Packers have a motley crew of runners led by Ty Montgomery, a guy who started 2016 as a wide receiver.
Farrar believes Quinn could find his current stable of backs to be successful this season, but anticipates the team could be in a position to reevaluate their running game after 2017.
If reevaluating means doing everything in their power to acquire Saquon Barkley, I’m more about it than Master P in ‘95: