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Matt Patricia on Zach Zenner: ‘Every minute I’ve been around the guy, the more I love him’

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Zenner looks to be in the good graces of the Lions coaching staff

Detroit Lions Training Camp Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

There’s some uncertainty in the Lions back field at the moment. The Lions signed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Mike Daniels on Friday afternoon, but with their corresponding move, they released Theo Riddick, who had been a roster staple for the past six years.

Where does that leave the rest of the group? The loss of Riddick sort of muddies up the waters and takes away an answer to a question we all thought we knew the answer to. Then there’s Zach Zenner.

Zenner has been with the Lions since 2015 and has been quite the fan favorite despite only playing in 36 games and rushing for just 685 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s the guy the fans believe isn’t getting his chance and is no doubt the key ingredient to the return of the Lions run game if he can just get that chance.

A week ago, it looked like there was a good chance Zenner wasn’t going to get that chance. The Lions added C.J. Anderson in free agency and sixth-round rookie Ty Johnson in the draft.

But after the release of Riddick, it appears Zenner’s job is relatively safe. No, he’s not going to be the team’s primary back or anything, but he will get a chance to make the team and see the field more often. And Zenner’s hard work has a lot to do with that progress.

When Zenner suffered a preseason injury and was placed on injured reserved (and waived a few weeks later), he showed back up in November all—I believe the term he kids are using these days is swolled out, bro.

He finished the final four games of the year strong with a cherry on top against Green Bay where he ran for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Couple all of that with the fact that Zenner has gotten even bigger this offseason and you have a player that it’s really hard not to cheer on. Even Lions head coach Matt Patricia commented on his love for Zenner in Sunday mornings presser.

“Every minute I’ve been around the guy, the more I love him,” Patricia said.

Those are strong words that any player would love to hear their coach say publicly.

Patricia went on to praise Zenner for his work ethic.

“Your number is called and you gotta go perform at a high level and execute at a high level,” Patricia said. “And you felt like you can trust him to be out there and do the job he’s supposed to do. He’s 100 percent the guy you know is going to be prepared and ready to do that.”

As far as what I could see on Sunday, it’s the same thing I’ve always seen. Zenner is the guy on your high school team that sprints to take a knee in front of the coach when you’re just trying to walk over there and catch your breath. The guy is full bore at all times.

In terms of where he fits in, he got a lot of work during Sunday’s training camp practice in all avenues and looked good for most part. I’d say at this point there is little doubt that Zach Zenner makes the 53-man roster, but I’m personally more excited to see if Zenner gets more regular season carries than usual. And if so, what can he do with them?