There weren’t a lot of feel-good stories for the Detroit Lions’ 2019 season, but one of the few exceptions to that was running back Bo Scarbrough. A mid-season addition, Scarbrough had a lot to prove after jumping from team to team in his first year in the big leagues. And, surprisingly, he proved it in a Lions offense struggling to find an identity in a post-Matthew Stafford season.
But after a solid performance in six games last year, what can be expected of Scarbrough in 2020? Let’s take a closer look at his projections.
Expectations heading into 2019
Scarbrough spent the 2019 offseason with the Seattle Seahawks after being a late-season addition in 2018 when Seattle yoinked him off the Jaguars practice squad. He didn’t make any game appearances in 2018, and after an underwhelming preseason finale, Scarbrough was waived on cut day.
Coincidentally, his teammate, J.D. McKissic, was also waived on the same day. McKissic was claimed immediately by Detroit, while Scarbrough cleared waivers and was a free agent for a few months before the Lions signed him to their practice squad in early November.
Expectations for Scarbrough were limited. Though he had a prominent college career at Alabama, the fact that he had already been on three NFL rosters in just over a season seemed to be pretty telling.
Still, with the Lions sending both Tra Carson and Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve, there was belief that Scarbrough would actually get a chance to compete.
Actual role in 2019
2019 stats: 6 games (5 starts): 89 rushes, 377 yards (4.2 YPC), 1 TD
PFF grade: 72.1 (25th of 61 qualifying RBs)
Scarbrough immediately outperformed expectations, rushing for 55 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut. He immediately gave a boost to a struggling running game, and also came within two negated plays of tallying back-to-back 100-yard games—something a Lions rusher hasn’t done since 2004 (Kevin Jones).
Scarbrough rushed with strength, balance and a good amount of vision, as well. And when Kerryon Johnson returned late in the season, the two seemed to complement each other well. The two combined for 95 yards on 20 carries (4.75 YPC) in the season finale against the Packers and 76 yards on 18 carries (4.2 YPC) in Week 16.
Outlook for 2020
Contract status: Signed through 2020
At the moment, Scarbrough is lined up to be the team’s No. 2 back, but that position on the team is anything but safe. Considering the injury history of both Kerryon Johnson and Scarbrough, the Lions are a likely candidate to add a running back to the roster via free agency or later in the NFL Draft. Combine that with the late rise of 2019 sixth-round pick Ty Johnson, and Scarbrough’s roster spot is anything but guaranteed in 2020.
That being said, Scarbrough proved he can be a worthwhile back on this team. If the Lions bring in a bulky, veteran back—as they’ve done in the past three years (Matt Asiata, LeGarrette Blount, C.J. Anderson)—Scarbrough will give them a run for their money, and could potentially enter the regular season as he entered the offseason: As the team’s No. 2 running back.
Scarbrough biggest challenge will be remaining healthy. He has torn his ACL twice (once in high school, once at Alabama), he’s missed games because of high ankle sprains, sprained knees, and he broke his leg in the 2016 National Championship game.
If he can remain healthy throughout training camp and the preseason, he should be considered the front-runner to be Detroit’s power back, leading to a significant role in 2020—and even potentially even 500-600 rushing yards.