The Detroit Lions are only 3-3 this season, but have won three of their last four in impressive fashion. The Lions have picked up wins over the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, and were able to pick up their third victory over the Miami Dolphins this past weekend. The recent success can be attributed to an offense that looks to be playing to its potential, as well as a defense that seems to be finally getting used to Matt Patricia’s system. One player, however, is starting to take center stage.
The Lions selected Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was supposed to be a compliment to LeGarrette Blount his first year before transitioning into the starting role. However, Johnson has seemingly stolen the starting job from Blount. The 21-year old rookie became the first Lions player to rush for 100 yards in a game since 2013 in Week 3 against the Patriots. After a couple of games where his touches decreased, he exploded in Week 7 for 158 yards on 19 carries against the Dolphins.
His 444 yards this season are just 108 yards fewer than the Lions leading rusher last year, Ameer Abdullah. Johnson only has 69 carries this season, and looks to get more as the season progresses. He compares well to his rookie counterparts, namely Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants. Barkley’s 481 yards is #1 among rookies, but Johnson’s 74 yards per game edges out Barkley. In fact, Johnson’s 6.4 yards per attempt is second only to Cleveland’s Nick Chubb. His 12 runs of 10+ yards is second to New England’s Sony Michel and Denver’s undrafted back Phillip Lindsay. He currently owns the longest run by a rookie with his 71-yard rush against the Dolphins.
The success of Johnson on the ground has opened up the passing game, and barring the Week 1 nightmare against the New York Jets, quarterback Matthew Stafford has been lights out. Since Week 1, Stafford has thrown 11 touchdowns to just 1 interception. His passer rating has been a 112.8 in the past five games. The offensive line is also playing much better as of late, as Stafford has only been sacked 10 times all year. This improved play may also be the reason for some of Johnson’s success, but he has also created yards himself. Johnson is fourth among rookies in yards after contact with 3.42.
While the Lions do have work to do, Johnson is helping to carry the team towards contention. If he can keep it up through this tough stretch of the upcoming schedule, the Lions could be in the thick of the playoff race. It all depends on the touches he earns and what he does with the opportunities. So far, Kerryon Johnson has exceeded his expectations, and has given Lions fans hope for great things to come in the future.
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