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2017 Detroit Lions season snap counts: Breaking down the offensive playing time

A look back at how the Lions utilized their offensive players in 2017.

NFL: DEC 31 Packers at Lions Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2017 season officially over and the 2018 offseason upon us, it’s time to look back at what happened this season and how it may translate going forward for the Detroit Lions.

Thanks to injury and a deeper roster, the Lions utilized a ton of different players in 2017. We’re going to take a look at the specifics of who they used and how they used them, and how each player is trending going into 2018.

Without further ado, here are the 2017 snap counts of the Detroit Lions’ offense.

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford: 1035 snaps — 99.1%
Jake Rudock: 9 snaps — 0.9%

Analysis: Well, it was nice to see Jake out there, I guess. But I’d prefer Stafford’s number to be 100 percent next year.

Running back

Theo Riddick: 475 snaps — 45.5%
Ameer Abdullah: 375 snaps — 35.9%
Tion Green: 89 snaps — 8.5%
Zach Zenner: 65 snaps — 6.2%
Dwayne Washington: 50 snaps — 4.8%
Jamal Agnew: 12 snaps — 1.1%

Analysis: Obviously the big story here is Ameer Abdullah’s plummeting role as the season went on. Here’s a look in visual form:

Obviously the injury really hurt Ameer, but his playing time had always remained underwhelming. He only played in 50 percent of snaps twice all year, while Theo Riddick did it four weeks in a row.

Tion Green was a revelation towards the end of the season, with all 89 of his snaps coming in the final five games of the season. Meanwhile, by season’s end, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington were complete non-factors; the two combined for just 50 offensive snaps after the bye.

Fullback

Alex Barrett: 3 snaps — 0.3%
Nick Bellore: 13 snaps — 1.2%

Analysis: The Lions only used a fullback in certain cases during situational matchups. In exactly half of their games, the Lions went without using a fullback once. For most of the year, they used Bellore as their guy in short-yardage situations.

Wide receivers

Marvin Jones Jr: 1005 snaps — 96.3%
Golden Tate: 781 snaps — 74.8%
Kenny Golladay: 477 snaps — 45.7%
TJ Jones: 400 snaps — 38.3%
Jared Abbrederis: 117 snaps — 11.2%
Alex Jones: 4 snaps — 0.4%
Jace Billingsley: 2 snaps -- 0.2%

Analysis: Marvin Jones is a bonafide No. 1 receiver now, and not just because of his outstanding performance, but because he’s out there on nearly every snap.

Golden Tate is the team’s No. 2, but one has to wonder how long that’s going to hold up because Kenny Golladay is right on his heels. In fact, take a look at the snap distribution over the final five games of the season:

Golden Tate: 244 snaps
Kenny Golladay: 268 snaps

Tate was still more instrumental in the Lions’ offensive gameplan, but 2018 may be the year that Golladay surpasses him.

TJ Jones also saw a huge increase in production, thanks in part to an injury to Golladay. But considering Jones only had 211 offensive snaps coming into 2017, the Lions may consider bringing him back for a situational role in 2018.

The same can’t be said for Jace Billingsley, who despite all of the offseason hype, could only get on the field for two snaps all season.

Tight ends

Eric Ebron: 552 snaps — 52.9%
Darren Fells: 550 snaps — 52.7%
Michael Roberts: 221 snaps — 21.2%
Hakeem Valles: 18 snaps — 1.7%

Analysis: It’ll probably surprise you to see that Ebron and Fells essentially shared the exact same amount of playing time in 2017. There was no discernable trend each week, as the two seemed to trade off as the lead tight end from game to game. Obviously, the two had very different roles with the offense and often were in on the same plays, but it speaks to the offense’s reliance upon blocking and receiving skills from their tight ends equally.

Rookie Michael Roberts had a pretty steady distribution of 10-20 snaps per game, with no clear increase in playing time as the season went on.

Offensive tackle

(Note: The lines were often blurred between tackle and guard with players like Corey Robinson and Emmett Cleary. For simplicity’s sake, we placed the player as they are listed on the Lions’ official roster)

Rick Wagner: 792 snaps — 75.9%
Taylor Decker: 474 snaps — 45.4%
Greg Robinson: 394 snaps — 37.7%
Corey Robinson: 327 snaps — 31.3%
Brian Mihalik: 190 snaps — 18.2%
Emmett Cleary: 60 snaps — 5.7%
Dan Skipper: 10 snaps — 1.0%

Analysis: It’s never good when no offensive tackle ends up playing more than 80 percent of offensive snaps. It’s even worse when you don’t have two players play at least 50 percent.

The Lions’ offensive tackle situation was a mess in 2017, hampered by injuries and no clear depth behind Wagner and Decker. The Greg Robinson experiment was tossed after six weeks, while Corey took over when injuries continued to mount all along the offensive line.

It’s hard to create any sort of chemistry when there’s no consistent lineup, and the Lions are hoping for better fortunes in 2018.

Guard/Center

Graham Glasgow: 1044 snaps — 100%
T.J. Lang: 808 snaps — 77.4%
Travis Swanson: 709 snaps — 67.9%
Joe Dahl: 185 snaps — 17.7%
Don Barclay: 129 snaps — 12.4%
Zac Kerin: 70 snaps — 6.7%
Tim Lelito: 28 snaps — 2.7%

Analysis: There are a few blasts from the past on this list. Remember Tim Lelito? He got one shot this year—coincidentally against his former team—and was never seen from again.

Graham Glasgow was the true MVP on this offensive line this year, not only playing in every single snap, but doing so at multiple positions and performing at a very impressive level for his second season.

Injuries to T.J. Lang continue to be a concern going forward, but the real question here is what will become of Travis Swanson. After having another year end prematurely due to a concussion, one has to wonder if Swanson will be re-signed this offseason. Joe Dahl picked up his slack in the final three games—playing every snap of each contest—but his performance was mediocre, at best.