Detroit Lions: Curb your enthusiasm for Kerryon Johnson

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Kerryon Johnson
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Kerryon Johnson /

Detroit Lions’ running back Kerryon Johnson is quickly turning heads during training camp, but expectations must be tempered for the rookie.

The Detroit Lions have been in training camp for just about a full week, and only a few days in pads, but rookie Kerryon Johnson is making a lot of noise.

Johnson, the team’s second-round selection in April’s NFL Draft, is grabbing everyone’s attention for all the right reasons. Throughout camp, he has demonstrated patience, elusiveness, speed, and power.

Given the Lions’ crowded backfield situation, it will take a lot for any one player to carve out a significant role. Johnson is doing just that, and he is doing it by displaying the most coveted trait to this current Lions’ regime: versatility.

The rookie out of Auburn is not limiting his damage to simply running the football. Over the past week, Johnson turned heads with his athleticism, his competence running routes, and ability to catch0 the football out of the backfield.

More from Detroit Jock City

Usually the skill that takes the longest for running backs to develop is pass protection. According to Kyle Meinke’s camp observations on, Johnson is coming along nicely in that area as well. 

So with all of these glowing reviews, why slam the breaks on the KJ Hype Train?

It comes down to a game of numbers. The major limiting factor to Johnson’s production this season is the amount of running backs the Lions will carry on their roster. It is entirely possible that the Lions will roster five of them, and even if some have very limited roles, it will limit Johnson’s opportunities.

The likelihood of Johnson occupying the role of an every-down back is remote, given his lack of experience and the way the game has evolved. The expectation, at least for this season, is that Johnson will merely assist in reviving one of the NFL’s most paltry rushing attacks. And the bar should stay right there.

We live in the era of fantasy football, where we deem the value of a player by his ability to pile up gaudy statistics. To evaluate Johnson on such shallow metrics, which many fans will ultimately do, is a mistake.

This kid is talented. The hype is real, but so is the math.

The Lions’ coaching staff must find a way to navigate this several-headed monster in the backfield. LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and even Ameer Abdullah bring valuable pieces to the team’s offensive game plan.

The success of the running game will not depend, nor should it depend, on the performance of one player. The resurrection of the ground game in the Motor City will take the collective skill set of the running back corps.

Next. PFF ranks Lions receivers highly. dark

As a rookie, Johnson will have to earn his share of the load. If early flashes in camp are any indication of what may come, however, it will be difficult for the Lions to keep him off the field. Until that is the case, Lions fans should gleefully accept that Johnson seems to have the ability to be a very important piece of the puzzle.