Rookie Radar: Why Kerryon Johnson's first year will be the most impactful rookie season since Ndamukong Suh

When Ndamukong Suh first reported to Allen Park for Lions camp in 2010, he brought with him a glimmer of hope that he alone could re-shape a defensive core that desperately needed all 6'4" 313lbs that he had to offer. Sure the Lions had the likes of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, but the team was coming off a 2-14 season and had no identity on defence. Now a member of the Los Angeles Rams, Suh's Lions career was not everything anticipated, but his impact was massive in the sense that it started to create an identity for a defensive line that went on to lead the team to multiple playoff appearances.

Image result for kerryon johnsonJump ahead to the start of 2018 and you'll find a fully loaded Lions offence that has possibly found its next impactful rookie. Enter, Kerryon Johnson, Huntsville, Alabama native and former Auburn Tigers running back. The Lions lacked a serious bell cow running back and the front office believed Johnson could fill this gap, so much so that they traded up to get the former Tiger. Ameer Abdullah was once taken in the same round that Johnson was, but Abdullah failed to ever find his step in a Lions offence that likes to throw to their running backs, and one that needed a scorer. Take 2017 for example, before adding Johnson and Super Bowl champion LeGarrette Blount, the Lions only had Abdullah and Theo Riddick, hardly a dangerous tandem and one that was easily predictable.

Kerryon Johnson was brought in to manage the backfield, a large task for a rookie, but pressure is nothing to an SEC running back who is tasked with playing some of the most important NCAA games every Saturday. Johnson's role will certainly develop as the year goes on, but expect him to get the majority of touches early in possessions, eventually allowing for Riddick to come in on passing downs, and Blount for the short yardage situations. Statistically it would be unfair to expect Johnson to make a massive impact individually, but his presence in the backfield will be one that creates a larger opportunity for a Lions offence that has been very one dimensional over the past decade. Detroit has not had a running back rush for 100+ yards in a game since 2013, and quite frankly I do not see that changing through 2018. There are too many options in the backfield that it will take some kind of game to achieve this feat, but the stat certainly speaks to the struggles the Lions have had in the ground game.

Image result for kerryon johnson and legarrette blount
Johnson can run, juke, truck and catch, making him a complete option on 1st and 2nd down and if he can remain successful across the board he will be able to cause questions for opposing defences given the versatility of the Lions' weapons. As mentioned before, do not expect Johnson to set the world on fire in the box score, but of all rookies from past and present it will be hard to find one with a larger impact on a team as a whole. Kerryon seems like the exact thing JimBob Cooter needs in his offence, but only time will tell.

The Lions kick-off Monday September 10th against the visiting New York Jets.