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2017 Detroit Lions roster review: Is Tion Green poised for a bigger role or none at all?

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With the mess that was the Lions run game, a bright spot for some was undrafted rookie Tion Green. But was it good enough to secure 2018?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Our review of the 2017 Detroit Lions season continues. Today we’re going to talk about reserve running back Tion Green. The undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati came in with little fanfare, but ended up finishing out the 2017 season stronger than most had ever predicted. Despite that, new information suggests Green may have to take a large step forward to even make the roster in 2018, let alone contribute.

Tion Green

Expectations before 2017

As an undrafted free agent running back in a crowded running back room, there weren’t really any expectations for Tion Green. With Ameer Abdullah looking very good prior to his 2016 injury and Theo Riddick with a recent extension, the team looked poise to finally have a run game outside the bottom five for the first time in Jim Caldwell’s tenure. Zach Zenner finished out 2016 very strong and the team always loved Dwayne Washington’s potential, so someone like Tion Green always seemed destined for the practice squad.

Actual Role in 2017

2017 stats: 5 games (0 starts): 42 Rushes, 165 Yards, 2 TDs, 3.9 YPC, 2 catches, 14 Yards

PFF Grade: 60.4 (Below average)

Green would come in and on his very first carry rush for 33 yards. That run provided a lot of hope for Lions fans who were used to 1 yard and a cloud of dust, no matter who was rushing. He finished the game rushing 10 more times for only 18 yards, but that included a 6-yard score. It bought Green a lot of good will for fans, but he would finish the season much like the other Lions rushers, under 4.0 yards per carry and mostly ineffective in a system that nobody could thrive in.

Outlook for 2018

Contract Status: Signed through 2019

Initial thinking for fans, most of which love Green’s story and initial impact, was that he would be coming into camp fairly safe. The thinking being that the Lions were going to draft or sign a running back to start, ditch one of Abdullah or Riddick, and cut both of Zenner and Washington.

It sounds now like Abdullah is pretty close to safe, and Riddick may be as well. Both Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia have spoken highly of both. Zach Zenner will not be tendered, but the team seems likely to bring him back on a short term deal. The Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett believes that the Lions will be addressing the running back position both in free agency and the draft. He reaffirms the likelihood of Abdullah returning and Zach Zenner likely coming back if the team can work out a deal.

Interestingly, he also mentions that Green’s future may be a bit more up in the air. From Birkett: “Green needs to mature after he had problems with his tardiness for meetings and preparedness for games last year.”

We had posited earlier in the season that Green wasn’t playing despite the Lions struggles rushing the football because he simply wasn’t ready to, but now it appears there’s more to the story than that. The way it stands right now, I wouldn’t list any of the Lions running backs as safe.


Should Tion Green remain with the team this offseason?

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