The Detroit Lions are not using Theo Riddick enough

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 3: Running Back Theo Riddick
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 3: Running Back Theo Riddick /

Detroit Lions’ running back Theo Riddick’s talents have been underrated and underused. From the looks of it at training camp, that may change in 2018.

Last season, the Detroit Lions managed to marginalize the role of one of Theo Riddick, one of their most talented offensive weapons. It was agonizing to see the Lions’ offense sputter time and again last season, and even more painful to see Riddick on the sideline, even when healthy.

I have long contested that this is one of Jim Bob Cooter’s most glaring faults, and it is the one that may eventually cost him his job.

In 2015, Riddick finished the season with 80 catches for 697 yards and three receiving touchdowns. The following season, he was just as productive, if not more so, tallying 53 catches for 371 yards and five receiving touchdowns through 10 games. A wrist injury ended his season and he missed the final six contests.

Last season, playing all 16 games and healthy, Riddick managed just 53 catches for 444 yards and two scores. He was only targeted four more times than he was in 2016, where he missed six games. The drop-off is inexplicable.

Riddick’s talents do not come without limitation. It’s no secret that he is not a prototypical running back who can carry the ball between the tackles. That was not his role at Notre Dame, where he didn’t eclipse more than 30 carries in a season until his senior year, and it has not been his role with the Lions.

What Riddick does bring to the table is also not a secret. He is a dynamic running back with phenomenal route-running and pass-catching ability. His lateral quickness and breakaway speed have terrorized linebackers across the league. Riddick is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses because so few players can keep with him step for step. Additionally, he is a proficient pass-protector, which is an essential skill for any back in today’s NFL.

Hopefully, with other talented running backs around him, the Lions can use Riddick where he is most effective – catching the football. Whether he lines up as a wide receiver or out of the backfield, Riddick is a player who creates mismatches just by being on the field.

When he was the only running back on the field for the Lions, accounting for Riddick became slightly easier for the defense. The easiest way for Cooter to disguise the Lions’ intentions would be to have Riddick split out as a receiver with another running back on the field at the same time. That is common sense, right?

It rarely happened in 2017. In a recent article on Pride of Detroit, the Lions used two-back formations a grand total of 34 times last season. The lack of ingenuity held the Lions’ offense, and Riddick’s production, way back.

This season may be different, however, as the genius of head coach Matt Patricia seems to see the potential with deploying two backs.

"“From a fullback standpoint or even just trying to put a second back in the backfield, it’s something that always gives teams a lot of difficulty when you can line up with a guy in the backfield and then insert him into the defense, from that standpoint, create an extra gap or extra space,” Patricia said. “It always adds another level of complexity to it to try and defend.”"

Though Patricia did not commit on who the personnell would be, but if training camp is any indication, one has to believe Riddick will be the major beneficiary. According to PFF’s Bret Whitfield, the Lions were using Riddick and Kerryon Johnson on the field at the same time with Riddick split wide.

Next. Matt Patricia having a positive impact on the Lions. dark

Putting Riddick on the field makes the Lions’ offense that much more explosive, and if the team is able to confuse teams with varying formations, there’s no telling how potent they can be. If this strategy translates from training camp to regular season, Riddick will be in store for a big year.