Johnson has made a full recovery from last year's knee injury and doesn't have any limitations during offseason workouts, ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reports.
Johnson was on pace for 1,366 scrimmage yards, 51 catches and 6.4 touchdowns before a knee sprain Week 11 knocked him out for the final six games of his rookie season. His mark of 5.4 yards per carry was the most impressive part, and it may have played a role in the Lions' decision to hire run-first offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell as a replacement for Jim Bob Cooter. The second-year running back referred to the change as "good news for me" -- a nod to Bevell's history with run-heavy offenses in Seattle, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. The Lions still have Theo Riddick for passing downs and replaced LeGarrette Blount (free agent) with an upgrade in C.J. Anderson, but there's no question Johnson is slated for the lead backfield role. After making major investments in their offensive line the past three offseasons, the Lions shifted their focus to tight end in 2019, signing Jesse James to a four-year contract and then drafting T.J Hockenson at No. 8 overall.
Johnson will be the Lions' unquestioned lead running back this season, but he could lose touches to others in the backfield, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. "Regardless of Kerryon, I think it's a position-specific thing where those guys, they take a lot of hits," head coach Matt Patricia said Tuesday. "...But you do have to look at the big picture and say, 'OK, great, we could win a couple now, but if we wear this guy out and he doesn't help us in the long run, then what's the trade off?'"
Johnson was brought along slowly as a rookie but easily outplayed Week 1 starter LeGarrette Blount from the get-go, and his role ultimately grew to the point where he was seeing a combined 18.4 rushing attempts and targets over his final five appearances. Given new offensive coordinator Darren Bevell's emphasis on the run game, it's possible Johnson could maintain that kind of respectable workload even if he's splitting reps with another player or two in 2019, whether that be Zach Zenner, Theo Riddick or a member of this year's incoming draft class. With that said, it doesn't sound like there are any plans for Johnson to receive the kind of snap count that could vault him into the elite tier of fantasy running backs, particularly if the Lions happen to invest in a backfield complement with an early-round selection this spring.
Johnson is expected to be a featured player in 2019 under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Will Burchfield of 97.1 FM The Ticket reports. "[Johnson] is a guy that's talented in the running game, but I'm also excited to see some of things I've heard about, his ability in the passing game -- which I think can really be a bonus for our offense," Bevell recently said.
The 2018 second-rounder was slowly brought along as the lead runner in the Lions backfield his rookie year, to the point where Johnson was seeing roughly 18 touches per game before going down with a minor knee sprain in Week 11. That respectable level of involvement could reasonably be viewed as the Auburn product's floor entering the 2019 season given Detroit's stated intent on moving to a more run-based, clock-controlling offensive system under Bevell. How effective that system will be greatly depends on the degree to which quarterback Matthew Stafford bounces back, but Johnson could be primed for a workhorse role regardless.
Johnson (knee) said he is almost 100 percent healthy and won't have any limitations during the offseason, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.
After missing the final six games of his rookie season with an MCL sprain, Johnson said he might've been ready to play this week if the Lions had reached the playoffs. While the team didn't come anywhere close to qualifying, Johnson played a big role in keeping Detroit respectable prior to his injury, averaging 5.4 yards on 118 carries and catching 32 of 39 targets (82.1 percent). He figures to enter his second pro season as the unquestioned lead back, though Theo Riddick could present an obstacle to pass-catching production and Zach Zenner or another player may poach a few carries. LeGarrette Blount presumably isn't in the plan for 2019 after producing just 2.7 YPC in 2018.
Since Johnson has missed the Lions' last four games with a sprained left knee and has yet to resume practicing since suffering the injury, the team opted to shutter him for the season rather than leaving the door open for him to suit up for the final two contests of 2018. Despite having already missed a quarter of his rookie campaign, Johnson still ranks as the Lions' team rushing leader with 641 yards (5.4 per carry) to go with four touchdowns. Johnson should be fully healthy well in advance of OTAs and should reclaim lead-back duties for Detroit in 2019.
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