The Detroit Lions got some bad news on Monday when it was revealed that running back Kerryon Johnson will likely miss time. His knee injury, considered week-to-week for now, is a big blow to the second-year’s already struggling season. Now the Lions will be left with a big hole in the backfield, and they have plenty of questions with how to fill it.
As in stands, the Lions have three running backs on their roster: rookie Ty Johnson, pass catcher J.D. McKissic, and newly-signed Tra Carson. Ty Johnson saw a majority of the snaps after Kerryon Johnson left, though he had limited success on the ground. He turned 10 carries into just 29 yards against a stout Vikings defense.
He and McKissic were more effective as receivers, with Johnson turning four catches into 28 yards and McKissic catching two for 31 yards. Given how effective the Lions’ passing attack has been thus far, and how poorly the Lions’ run blocking has been, it is worth considering that they might be better off throwing it more. The Lions of Matthew Stafford’s early career were one-dimensional aerial attacks, and we might see that happen again this year.
The Lions could also turn to some familiar names. Long-time Lion Zach Zenner just signed with the New Orleans Saints, but the Lions could also look at C.J. Anderson, who was released early this season. He had minimal success during his time with the Lions, but his familiarity could prove useful. Speaking of veteran backs, they could kick the tires on LeGarrette Blount, but after a dreadful 2018 campaign, it would be an uninspiring signing at best.
The Lions have had a carousel of running backs this season and could explore that further. Carson is the latest acquisition, though we should expect the Lions to bring back some previous signees. The Lions had Mark Thompson and Justin Stockton during the preseason, and have signed—and quickly cut—a multitude of players including David Williams, Nick Brossette, Paul Perkins, and Wes Hills.
They could bring in players with experience under Darrell Bevell as well. Thomas Rawls and Alex Collins are two former Seahawks that are on the open market, although neither would be considered immediate upgrades.
Perhaps the biggest name is a trade candidate. The Miami Dolphins are in full tank mode, and one of the few remains players with talent on that team is Kenyan Drake. I have been a believer in the 25-year old back out of Alabama, as he has been cursed with either poor coaching or poor teammates. He is a dual threat running back and could easily fill Kerryon’s hole on the roster. Additionally, the asking price could be quite reasonable. The Dolphins have been giving Mark Walton a bevy of carries in recent weeks, signalling that Drake’s time as a Dolphin could be at an end.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
What should the Lions do at running back?
My answer: Trades are hard to predict, but if the Lions could give up just a sixth-round pick or so for Drake, I would approve. He has been wasting away in Miami for too long, and he has enough talent to seize a starting role and succeed. The problem, however, is that the Lions’ offensive line is struggling. Their best run blocker, Graham Glasgow, is constantly rotated out of the lineup for Kenny Wiggins, and despite the clear step down in play, the coaching staff continues to do it.
If the asking price for Drake is too steep, I would be fine with Ty Johnson and McKissic. It certainly is not a pretty lineup on paper, but Johnson could surprise in an extended role with his speed, and both players are capable pass catchers. The Lions’ strength lies with its passing attack, and they might be better off leaning on that to win games.
Closing games out might be a problem.