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The Detroit Lions opened the preseason last Friday night against the Oakland Raiders. They lost the game 16-10 but had a few reasons to be happy.
The preseason is all about warming up for the regular season for veterans and having rookies and guys on the roster bubble show what they’re made of. One of those guys, running back Kerryon Johnson, showed some flashes of excellence in his time on the field.
Johnson, the 43rd overall pick out of Auburn in the 2018 NFL Draft, toted the rock seven times for 34 yards for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. He also caught four passes for 33 yards. Overall, he had 11 touches for 67 yards. His longest run went for 13 yards and his longest catch was for 19.
While those stats are pretty solid in all, they could’ve been even better. Johnson had a 57-yard scamper called back by a holding penalty early in the third quarter. It was an impressive run nonetheless, and showed fans that he could be the answer to this running game that has been abysmal for the last five years.
While people outside of Detroit may not know the full extent of the Lions running game struggles, every fan of the team knows it all too well. Detroit hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving Day in 2013 when Reggie Bush (yes, that Reggie Bush) rushed for 117 yards on 20 carries.
Last year, the Lions had 1,221 total rushing yards as a team. Three running backs, Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley II and Le’Veon Bell had more yards than that by themselves. So yeah, the Lions run game was not, and has not, been good for years.
The team is banking on Johnson to change that. Last year at Auburn, he rushed for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns in route to becoming the SEC Player of the Year and a first-team All-SEC selection.
I know it’s only the preseason, but Johnson’s performance on Friday had to have some fans, and teammates, excited. Matthew Stafford has only had seven 100-yard rushers in his 125 career games. He has a phenomenal 6-1 record in those games, so you know he is clamoring to finally have a run game that can compliment the passing attack.
While Johnson’s professional career has just begun, Friday’s showing was hopefully the beginning of a long, successful run in the Motor City.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com.