Free Press columnist Shawn Windsor and sports writer Dave Birkett react to another painful Lions loss to Cowboys, 26-24, Sept. 30, 2018.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

The drumbeat for Kerryon Johnson to get more playing time is getting louder, but Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said Monday he’s happy with the rookie running back’s workload for now.

“I think we have a lot of really good running backs and I think we try to use them appropriately,” Patricia said at his Monday news conference. “I think Kerryon played a significant amount of the game. He played 20 snaps of 55, that’s a good amount. Plus, we have two other running backs, plus we have two-minute drives and other two-minute personnel packages and things like that. There was quite a bit of reps in there for Kerryon.”

Johnson played just 20 of 55 offensive snaps in the Lions’ 26-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, five fewer than third-down back Theo Riddick and six more than veteran LeGarrette Blount.

Johnson has been far and away the Lions’ most effective running back through four games, but he played as a backup the first three weeks of the season and has primarily split work with Blount and Riddick throughout the season.

Riddick, who plays in most third-down and two-minute situations, has played about 42 percent of the Lions’ offensive snaps this year (115 of 274), followed by Johnson (38 percent) and Blount (26 percent).

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Johnson and Blount have about the same amount of carries, with Johnson running for a team-high 216 yards on 38 rushes and Blount managing just 95 yards on 35 carries.

Riddick ranks fourth on the team in receptions – behind the three starting wide receivers – with 21 for 118 yards.

Patricia said the Lions’ running back rotation is “a staff decision” that he’s “definitely aware of and on top of.”


Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia speaks to the media on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in Allen Park.
Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

In Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, Johnson, coming off the Lions first 100-yard rushing game since 2013, ran for 32 yards on the first offensive snap and carried the ball on the next two plays from scrimmage, then had just six carries for 20 yards the rest of the game.

Asked about his lack of work after the game and whether he needs more carries, Johnson was diplomatic.

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“Week to week it’s changing,” he said. “Five (carries), 10, 15, 20, back to five, you never know, so whatever touches I get I got to make them count. And I got to do that better next week.”

Patricia said shortly after he was hired that he believed in using a committee at the running back position, and he said Monday that he’s been a part of teams that have done studies on the success rate of backs and that their prosperity is often tied to workload.

“You’ll find a lot of teams where guys maybe earlier in the season (play) at a high productive level and by the time they get to the end of the season the wear and tear of that position, it’s pretty extreme,” Patricia said. “So you get to the end of the year and those guys aren’t going to be out there as much. You kind of take a look from a big-picture standpoint, but a game-by-game standpoint, a play-by-play standpoint. We’re obviously trying to compete … at a high level so we’re trying to have our best players out there at all times that we can. We feel that we have a really good strong running-back group. They’re all outstanding players and we’re just going to continue to try to improve them just like we are every position.”

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