Lions Claim Former Packers Running Back Off Waivers

Lions Claim Tra Carson from Packers

Getty Tra Carson #32 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the ball in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 29, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Detroit Lions weren’t happy about walking off of Lambeau Field last Monday night with a divisional loss, but the front office must have seen something it liked — or, rather, someone — on its trip to Green Bay.

The Lions added running back Tra Carson off the waivers Thursday after the Packers cut him loose from their 53-man roster Wednesday afternoon to make room for newly signed wide receiver Ryan Grant. The Lions released running back Paul Perkins to create space.

While Carson has carried the ball several times this season, the fourth-year rusher didn’t play a single offensive snap Monday night for the Packers as they opted instead to lean on starter Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, his freshly recovered complement. Williams led the way with 14 carries for 104 of the Packers’ 170 rushing yards against the Lions.

Carson, though, recorded a tackle while playing 55 percent of special teams snaps in prime time and could present Detroit with a multi-purpose player to pad its depth chart in a few areas.

The Lions already have four running backs signed to their active roster — five before ditching Perkins on Thursday — but the talent is uninspiring behind lead rusher Kerryon Johnson. Second option Ty Johnson had a season-low two carries against the Packers, while J.D. McKissic took the ball three times for just four yards. Nick Bawden, on the other hand, did not play.

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Carson Moves to Third Team in Two Seasons

This is the second time the former Texas A&M rusher has been shuffled around since signing with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2016, but his career has been a failure to launch through four seasons.

He played on the Bengals’ practice squad until his promotion to the active roster on the second-to-last day in December during his rookie year, but back-to-back major injuries landed him on the injured reserve list in each of his next two seasons. Only once Cincinnati cut him in late September of his third year did Green Bay finally move in on him.

The Packers signed Carson to their practice squad near the start of last October and promoted him before the month was over, but a ribs injury in December forced Carson to make his third stint on IR.

Injury concerns could be put aside if the underlying potential was evident in Carson, but the first Aggies running back to ever rush for 1,000 yards in the SEC has not stayed as productive at the NFL level. Right now, Carson has more receiving yards (18) than rushing yards (14) in his career, and half of his rushing total came on a single run two weeks ago against the Dallas Cowboys.

Expect Carson to Challenge for Backup Role

Clearly, the Lions wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of picking up Carson without seeing something of value in him, especially considering they aren’t hurting for bodies at the position. Kerryon Johnson currently has 285 of the team’s 538 rushing yards, but the rest of the production has come from six other players — three of which aren’t even running backs.

Carson can immediately challenge any of the players behind Detroit’s top guy for playing time on offense, while his special teams experience allows the Lions to deploy him in multiple phases. The only question now is whether that chance will come at noon CT Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings visit Ford Field.

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