I’m a big fan of Kerryon Johnson. I like the toughness, the versatility, and the landing spot. You heard me the landing spot.During his three years at Auburn, Johnson improved every year and closed with 285 carries for 1391 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also added 24 receptions and 2 more touchdowns. In 2016 Johnson split time with Kamryn Pettway but in 2017 Johnson emerged as the lead back and pushed Pettway to the bench. All of this production against the vaunted SEC defenses and during the 2017 season Johnson put up seven 100-yard games and one 200-yard game.
So why do I love the landing spot? Detroit is a team with a new head coach looking to establish his identity. Matt Patricia comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, which has frankly not produced star head coaches. Patricia ran the defense for New England and in coming to Detroit to work for former Patriots front office guy Bob Quinn they will be looking to recreate the New England “do your job” mentality. Kerryon Johnson fits right into that mold, he has been saying all of the right things during camp, putting team first, deferring to veterans and working hard. The Lions offense will once again be run by Jim Bob Cooter with Matt Stafford at quarterback and a stacked wide receiving corps featuring Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay. Stafford is a strong-armed quarterback who uses the pass to set up the run.
The Detroit backfield is not a cast of all-stars. They are currently led by bruising free agent signee LeGarrette Blount and pass catcher Theo Riddick, with Ameer Abdullah and Dwayne Washington for depth. Johnson brings the best parts of Blount and Riddick into one player. This will allow Detroit to play faster and not have to worry about substituting because Blount can’t catch or Riddick can’t run inside as Johnson can do both of those things well.
So, what are the knocks on Johnson? At 6’0” 214, he actually looks skinny, with a narrow frame, long legs and not a lot of bulkiness. His running style can get a little upright at times and he can be stiff. Johnson has the tendency to take on collisions which he could avoid. One of the frequently praised aspects of his game is patience and burst. Johnson is good at flowing with the line and waiting for the hole to open before exploding through for yardage.
How does Kerryon win rookie of the year? While Saquon Barkley is the favorite, he also has a lot of pressure to put up astronomical numbers or the season will be a disappointment. Johnson, on the other hand, has more realistic expectations placed upon him. So, if Johnson can win a minimum of a split role coming out of camp, and I expect he will have the opportunity to put up 60-90 yards from scrimmage over the first few weeks and then take complete charge of the backfield coming out of the week seven bye. Detroit has an offensive line with a lot of high draft picks in Decker, Wagner, and Ragnow who should be able to give Johnson holes to run. Jim Bob Cooter is a good OC who will put Detroit in a good position to make plays and Matt Patricia brings some of the New England match-up philosophy to Detroit allowing Johnson to be put in a position to make big plays.
Well, there it is. I’m planting my flag on Kerryon Johnson for Offensive Rookie of the Year. 235 carries for 1011 yards 7 touchdowns 38 receptions 293 yards and 2 touchdowns and leads Detroit to a playoff win. Get that speech ready Mr. Johnson.