The Detroit Lions backfield could be in for its first real shakeup of the 2018 season.
So far, through the team’s first five games, opponents have gotten a steady diet of Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick. The Lions have utilized the skillsets of all three throughout the early part of this season.
Johnson has played 134 snaps, and he leads the team with 286 rushing yards (5.7 average). Blount’s been a good complement with his power element, playing 88 snaps.
Riddick, who hasn’t practiced all week due to a knee injury, has also played 134 snaps this season to lead all Lions backs with Johnson. He’s Detroit’s top pass catcher out of the backfield and best pass protector, so he sees the field often on third downs.
But if the knee injury prevents Riddick from playing on Sunday, we could see veteran Ameer Abdullah active and possibly playing a role on offense in Miami.
Abdullah was active last week for the first time this season, but he only saw action as a kick returner.
The Lions have liked their rotation of three backs on offense, and a numbers game so far has simply kept Abdullah out of the mix. But potential situations like Sunday is part of why having Abdullah ready is key for the Lions.
Abdullah is experienced and has a wide-ranging skillset. He’s a very good receiver out of the backfield, much like Riddick is. He can do a lot of the same things Riddick does for this offense, which means that part of the playbook remains intact.
“He’s unbelievable from his preparation to his ability and skillset,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of Abdullah. “His improvement from the spring has been amazing. (He’s) dependable. A guy that can really do a lot on special teams to help us, too.
“Really a great player, who’s always prepared to go and whenever those opportunities come up I’m sure he’ll be ready to take full advantage of them.”
INSIDE PRACTICE FRIDAY
The Lions moved practice indoors Friday after practicing Wednesday and Thursday outside, but the Lions didn’t crank up the heat or do anything drastic to try and simulate the heat they’ll face in Miami Sunday. That wasn’t the plan behind moving indoors.
It was more about keeping the players hydrated and working through a lighter practice indoors, according to Patricia.
“Kind of as we get to Friday one of the things that I’m pushing right now at this point is hydration,” he said.
“We’ve had two really good days of work and sweat and grind and body temperature working at a high level. It’s more about your internal body temperature than it is necessarily the outside temperature.
“We’ve been able to do that the last couple days. Today is just about have a good, clean practice and we just kind of figure today would be a good day to work inside more so than try to crank up the heat and doing heat acclimation. Just want a good, clean practice.”
Patricia said players dehydrate when they sleep and travel, especially once they hit the Florida heat. He didn’t think Friday was a good time to go through a drastic dehydration day at practice.
ENJOYING THE NLCS
When most of us watch the NLCS playoff matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers, we marvel at the pitching and the ability of those athletes to do one of the hardest things in sports – hit off major league pitching.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has a little bit different perspective when watching. He still marvels at the athletes on the field, but he grew up with and played alongside Dodgers Cy Young pitcher Clayton Kershaw. In fact, Stafford was Kershaw’s main catcher until he gave up baseball for football.
So he watches Kershaw with a little different perspective and enjoyed Kershaw’s dazzling performance in Game 5 the other night, a win for Kershaw, pitching seven innings of three-hit baseball while striking out nine and allowing just a single run to give the Dodgers a 3-2 series lead,
“(He) was tuned in and I really, to tell you the truth, expect that from him,” Stafford said Thursday. “I played with him for such a long time I know how competitive he is, and the guy never wants to ever come off the mound. I can promise you that.
“So, just to watch him do that and perform at that level in the playoffs was a whole lot of fun for me to watch. (He) really had it rolling and they pulled him, but he could have kept going. He was only, what, 99 or 100 (pitches)? So, (I) was happy for him and happy for that team. It was a fun game to watch.”
Could Stafford have made a professional career out of baseball himself? I have it on good authority he could touch 90 miles per hour with his fastball as a 15-year-old.
Ziggy Ansah, who hasn’t played since Week 1 due to a shoulder injury, practiced for a second straight week, albeit in limited fashion. He’s likely to be questionable again for Sunday’s contest in Miami.
He spoke to the media Friday following practice, and understands the frustration some fans have with him continuing to practice but not being ready to play.
“Yeah, I get it,” Ansah said. “That only tells me how much love they got for me. They just want me to come out and play.”
Ansah said playing Sunday would be a coaching decision. He was then asked if he felt healthy enough to play: “I’m pretty good,” he said.