Now that Johnson is gone for a while, the Lions will have to respond given their roster is dotted with inconsistent bit parts. Ty Johnson is a rookie and has never shouldered a major backfield load, while J.D. McKissic is more of a pass catching back rather than a north and south runner.
While Matt Patricia has maintained the Lions could roll with a committee approach, it’s not wise to entrust Detroit’s backfield to a rookie and a player who is more accustomed to catching the rock than running with it. Instead, the Lions likely need to look outside the organization for a move in order to boost a depleted ground game.
So who should the Lions look to? Here’s some of the names that need to be on the short list immediately.
Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins
Drake has been a very productive runner in the NFL with the Dolphins, rushing for 1,358 yards and 9 touchdowns. He’s also gotten loose for 6 scores through the air as a receiver, and has 762 reception yards as a true dual threat player. Drake brings it in a variety of ways for his team and adds the element of speed and elusiveness out of the backfield.
Some of Drake’s best games have come against the New England Patriots, which gives Matt Patricia a good idea of what the runner brings to the table. In 2017, he collected 193 total yards from scrimmage against Patricia’s defense, showing what he can do to the man who now coaches the Lions. It would be an interesting move, and it might be able to happen for a middle round pick. Detroit was reportedly already interested in Drake before Johnson’s injury.
Follow the Heavy on Lions Facebook page for all the latest stories, rumors and viral content!
Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
Gordon is unhappy with the Chargers, as he sat out the first half of the season with a contract dispute. He’s since returned, but have the Chargers replaced him with Austin Ekler? It’s possible Gordon may have priced himself out of town. Detroit’s cost to add Gordon would be very high in terms of cost and contract, but he would immediately add big play punch at a spot on the roster that needs it. Can Johnson be trusted after yet another knee injury? If the Lions aren’t sold, they could add a big name in Gordon.
Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins
Long a tormentor of the Lions, Peterson is still playing for the Redskins even at advanced age, and he has played pretty well in 2019 with 307 yards and 1 touchdown. Those numbers are far from what folks were used to from Peterson, but the runner is a veteran and might come cheaper than some of the options on the list. Peterson doesn’t have much left in the tank, but could be a stop gap to try and keep the Lions in contention on the ground. He also has a history with the team’s former coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Jay Ajayi, Free Agent
Coming off injury himself, Ajayi has struggled to stay healthy and consistent after being traded away from Miami and playing a few decent seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles. Ajayi has gotten a few looks elsewhere, but has not signed. That could mean nobody is sold on his health, so a signing here could be risky. In this situation, the Lions could roll with Johnson in a complementary role and feature him just as much. If Ajayi isn’t healthy, this might be a lateral move. If he is healthy, the Lions could get some decent snaps out of the former gritty runner in Miami.