Detroit Lions News: Managing the running back rotation will be key Sunday

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

With the emerging D’Andre Swift forced to miss Sunday’s tilt against the Carolina Panthers, how will the Detroit Lions manage their backfield?

After excelling a week ago, playing as a true three-down back for the first time, Detroit Lions rookie runner D’Andre Swift will miss Sunday’s matchup in Carolina due to a concussion. It was a weird situation; Swift practiced on Wednesday and addressed the media for about five minutes at the conclusion.

Then, the dynamic playmaker was absent on Thursday.  Shortly after, the news broke that Swift had been suffering from concussion-like symptoms and was immediately placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol leaving his Sunday availability in serious doubt.  On Friday, the Detroit Lions announced their top running back would indeed be out Sunday.

It’s not like the Panthers haven’t endured a plethora of injuries either; they will be without their best player in Christian McCaffrey and perhaps their starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

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Last week in Detroit’s victory over the Washington Football Team, Swift galloped for 81 yards on 16 carries and added five receptions totaling 68 yards and a score.  Swift has compiled 331 rushing yards on 70 totes and a team-leading four rushing touchdowns on the season.  The dual-threat running back has also added 275 receiving yards on 31 grabs, adding a pair of touchdowns.

So how will the Detroit Lions fill this running back void Sunday in Carolina?

The short answer is running back by committee, but don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely terrified that Detroit’s offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will foolishly try and ride Adrian Peterson as he did earlier in the season.

If you’re like me, you can quickly create a path to Bevell handing the football off to the corps of Peterson 20-plus times Sunday, and that makes my stomach churn.  The Detroit Lions need to use Peterson but on a limited, situational basis.  When it comes down to it, it should be Kerryon Johnson out-touching Peterson overall in Week Eleven.

Kerryon Johnson will be Detroit’s third-down back or the back that remains on the field if the team finds themselves playing from behind.  Rather than waiting around for that situation, Detroit should use Johnson in the same fashion as they used Swift a week ago.

The Lions need to use Johnson as a three-down back and rotate Peterson in as the short-yardage, goal-line, and change of pace spots.  Peterson will see his share of first-down carries, which also sets up some downfield play-action passing attempts.  Bevell needs to refrain from leaning on Peterson’s three-yards per rush approach and turn the keys over to the more electric Johnson.

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How ever you slice it, Peterson will indeed have an opportunity to add to his team-leading 97 carries and 371 rushing yards.