The Detroit Lions are searching for answers at running back after Kerryon Johnson was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. While the Lions have options in J.D. McKissic, recently-acquired Tra Carson, and rookie Ty Johnson, none of those guys have ever received the bulk of the carries in an NFL game, and both are probably best served in complementary roles rather than being the feature.
The Lions do have one player, however, that has been a feature back in the NFL: former Giants running back Paul Perkins.
Perkins was the Giants’ fifth-round pick 2016, and towards the end of his rookie season—as the Giants made a postseason run—he became the team’s feature back. In the final five games of the regular season, Perkins had 69 rushes for 309 yards and 4.48 yards per carry.
Perkins didn’t see nearly as much success the following year, quickly losing his grasp on the starting job to Orleans Darkwa.
But when the Giants hired Pat Shurmur to be the Giants head coach in 2018, there was hope for Perkins. An offseason pectoral injury ended his season before it even started, but he came back in 2019 and earned himself a spot on the 53-man roster after an impressive preseason (4.2 YPC and 64 receiving yards).
“Paul’s a really good player,” Shurmur told the Detroit media via teleconference this week. “He was here a year ago and he was hurt. He came in, he competed extremely well.”
Unfortunately, the 5-foot-10, 208 pound back wouldn’t last long with the Giants this year. After being awarded tight end Kaden Smith, New York waived Perkins in mid-September.
“It was a tough decision for him not to be here based on our part,” Shurmur said.
The Lions quickly swiped him up, though, and he’s been waiting for his chance with Detroit over the past month. He’s only appeared once—in a single special teams snap—but Shurmur says the Lions got a well-rounded player in Perkins.
“I think he’s one of those guys, he is a good, solid player that’s really good running the ball, he’s good in pass protection, and he’s got good hands,” Shurmur said. “So he can do all the things a running back needs to do.”
With Johnson now out for at least eight weeks, Perkins may have his shot at cracking the offensive lineup. Though he’ll likely still be behind the likes of Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic, his experience in the league and his comfort level in the system may mean we see him sooner rather than later.