Zenner and recent signing C.J. Anderson figure to compete for carries behind Kerryon Johnson, ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reports.
The Lions also have Theo Riddick in a crowded backfield, though the pass-catching specialist might be traded or released before Week 1 to free up $3.7 million in cap space. Johnson is the only one of the bunch signed beyond 2019, and he already proved his merit as a lead back with 5.4 yards per carry and 32 catches in 10 games during his rookie season. Zenner's wealth of experience on special teams could allow him to stick on the 53-man roster even if he lands fourth on the depth chart at running back.
Zenner's strong finish in 2018 could put him second in line for carries behind Kerryon Johnson, though it's still too early in the offseason to project the 27-year-old's role with much certainty. Zenner took 51 carries for 237 yards (4.6 average) and three touchdowns over the final four weeks of the 2018 campaign, plus he maintained a key role on special teams even after his involvement on offense skyrocketed.
This is an understatement considering Zenner turned out to be everything head coach Matt Patricia could really ask for in a backup running back -- an effective runner (4.8 YPC on 55 attempts) whose ability on special teams can allow for more roster flexibility on gamedays. The question now is where Zenner will sign this offseason once he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March. Given the promise he showed down the stretch, it's possible Zenner will have a number of suitors for his services.
Zenner rushed for 93 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries, adding a 30-yard reception during Sunday's 31-0 win against the Packers.
Detroit hasn't exactly handed the keys over to Zenner since Kerryon Johnson (knee) fell victim to injury Week 11 against the Panthers. In six games since, LeGarrette Blount has been entrusted with 76 carries to Zenner's 54. Zenner has been significantly more productive with those opportunities, however, averaging an impressive 4.7 yards per carry during that span compared to Blount's average of 3.1 yards per rush. The fourth-year back has given Detroit's front office something to ponder with his contract expiring over the offseason. Having compiled 192 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his three appearances with 10-plus carries this season, Zenner has proven himself to be a capable backup option behind the 21-year-old Johnson.
Zenner rushed eight times for 45 yards and added two catches for 22 yards on three targets in Sunday's 27-9 loss to Minnesota.
Zenner was easily Detroit's best option on the ground, as LeGarrette Blount (calf) was held to 29 yards on 11 carries. It's a bit puzzling why a beat-up Blount got more work than Zenner, but odd coaching decisions are nothing new to Lions fans. Zenner should push for double-digit touches against the Packers in Week 17.
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