The Detroit Lions didn’t bring in a running back either in the draft or via veteran free agency this offseason. How concerning should this be for the Lions?
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— doug mccready (@dgmccready) May 18, 2017
The run game has been a major topic of conversation for Lions fans for years now, particularly over the past few months after general manager Bob Quinn said the team needed to improve a rushing attack that spent most of last season at the bottom of the league.
The thing is that improving the run game doesn’t necessarily mean fixing the actual running backs. Unless the back is Barry Sanders or Bo Jackson, if a rusher doesn’t have an offensive line, then he typically will not be very effective no matter his talent level.
So Quinn spent the past two seasons adding four new starters on the offensive line (only center Travis Swanson remains) and now that group will be expected to give Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and Mike James holes to run through.
This shouldn’t be too shocking, though, considering Quinn and head coach Jim Caldwell have been consistent in their praise for Abdullah, who missed almost all of last season after a foot injury in Week 2. Abdullah is cleared for action and should be healthy when OTAs begin next week.
As far as a level of concern, there doesn’t seem to be too much of one -- either that or Quinn really didn’t like the market or the players available for him to draft in the middle rounds. (For instance, Kareem Hunt was available before the Lions traded back in the third round.) Detroit did bring in undrafted free agent Tion Green, and the 6-foot, 230-pound back could push for a roster spot. So Quinn didn’t stay completely with his group of five backs from a season ago.
Detroit still could bring in a free agent running back -- Christine Michael might be the most attractive name out there -- but none of the backs remaining has the potential of Abdullah or the pass-catching ability of Riddick. So at best, Detroit will be bringing in a piece to compete for a depth role.
And that’s not necessarily something Detroit needs -- although if Abdullah and Riddick end up hurt again in 2017, choosing to not bring in another high-level rusher will be second-guessed. But if both of them stay healthy, the Lions are banking on them being successful.
If not, Detroit could have a bunch of new backs in 2018.