The Detroit Lions starting Running Back Kerryon Johnson will be out ‘some time’ according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Given his substantially long injury rap sheet this injury of unknown severity to his right knee carries with it additional baggage. It’s widely speculated he was never healthy in college as he battled rib, hamstring, ankle, and shoulder injuries at various times throughout his career. This after sustaining left shoulder, right shoulder, MCL, and thumb injuries in high school. Not to mention him being put on Injured Reserve in 2018 with a left knee injury. The term ‘injury risk’ gets thrown around too liberally in our game, but this guy has earned that reputation. Kudos to him for constantly battling through those various ailments, but the red flags are loud and clear with his health.
Enter, Ty Johnson. The 6th round rookie has so far been impressive, forcing C.J. Anderson off the roster before September ended. He’s been consistently behind J.D. McKissic in snaps throughout the season, but as we found out Week 7 that was due to their respective roles. The Lions have made it clear they want some sort of time share between their running backs to keep them fresh, but McKissic’s role compares to former Lion Theo Riddick and fits how McKissic was utilized in Seattle. He’s the passing down, change-of-pace scat-back as his 25% snap count wasn’t much different than previous usage. Ty Johnson was the beneficiary as he saw more snaps Week 7 (49) than the rest of the season to that point (47). I think we can safely pencil him into the lead back role as long as Kerryon Johnson is out.
The rookie shares a lot of the same traits one expects of a running back picked on the draft’s third day. He’s under sized, lacks polish in the pass game, and there are questions about him being able to sustain production in a primary role over an extended period of time. In today’s NFL that’s enough to not be a priority on any team’s board, but should opportunity present itself that sort of profile has use in our game; even if it’s just a short term play. With the ball in his hands there aren’t many weaknesses in his game. He has always displayed high quality vision and decision making, has the burst to take advantage of creases when they develop, and runs with excellent leverage. Like many under sized running backs he lacks the power to drive through defenders, but with the rest of that toolbox he has, it’s not going to be a detriment to his usage as long as the offensive line in front of him is ‘good enough’ – and the Lions unit qualifies.
While that profile isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of his skills, the upcoming schedule should leave you more confident using him should he be the best option at your disposal. The Lions host the Giants this week (27th in points against RB’s), travel to Oakland next week (18th), then Chicago (24th), host Dallas (20th), go to Washington (22nd), then Chicago again. Sure, it’s possible Kerryon Johnson returns at some point during that stretch, but when a player is ruled out on Monday it’s generally safe to assume it will be a multi-week injury, especially someone with his track record. He presents more weekly upside than any other running backs available on waivers (because if you read this every week you already own Chase Edmonds and Darrell Henderson) and by this point in the season you have a hole to fill somewhere on your bench, whether it be due to injury or ineffectiveness.
This week’s Flavor of the Week is: A dozen wings. He is not be the first thing you will pick out when perusing the menu, but he’s a fine fail-safe should you not find anything else appetizing.