Stay Or Go: Running Back Position Could Beg For Changes

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Running Back Has Become A Big Question Mark For Detroit


Welcome to another edition of “Stay or Go”, where I look at each position on the Lions roster, determine if they should stay or go and give a list of possible replacements. I already dove into the quarterback position, and now it is time to look at the biggest question mark on the roster, the running backs.

Detroit had struggles running the ball again in the 2016 season, but were also hit with injuries that caused Joique Bell to return to Detroit and gave Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner some playing time. With a great running back class coming in the 2017 NFL Draft, Detroit could look there for possible replacements as this might be the only good time in a while to snag a solid running back.

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Ameer Abdullah

He is on his last leg in Detroit. During his time in Detroit, Ameer Abdullah has dealt with injuries in both of his seasons in the league. My take on injuries, you get three chances. Abdullah has already used two of them, even though one was during the offseason last year, it still raises a red flag. Detroit would be crazy to let Abdullah go after two banged up years, as Matt Stafford had back to back years of getting hurt before finally getting healthy and being a MVP candidate.

Now I’m not saying Abdullah will become an MVP candidate in a few years, if he does and he is on our team, great! He just needs another shot on this team before we dump him off. This years’ draft is stacked with many starting caliber running backs and Abdullah should be wanting to work hard and show the front office that there isn’t a reason to draft someone who could replace him. If he gets injured again next year though, this decision changes greatly.

Decision: Stay

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Theo Riddick

Detroit re-signed Theo Riddick to a three year deal before the season started and I wouldn’t expect them to let that go after this year. Riddick did suffer a wrist injury that made him miss the last five games which hurt the Lions as they went 1-4 without him. Riddick improved in the running game, but he could be better. He caught less balls and had less yards, but he was finding the endzone more, getting five touchdowns this year. With Jim Bob Cooter staying in Detroit, his offense flows through Riddick, he won’t be going anywhere.

Decision: Stay

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Zach Zenner

Zig Zag Zenner isn’t leaving Detroit. The only way Zenner leaves is if he asks for too much money, but I doubt that happens. Zenner saw an increase in the workload with Riddick and Abdullah out and he proved his worth on the team. He ended up getting 334 yards on 88 carries with four touchdowns, while getting 18 catches for 196 yards. He locked in that third string role on the team, and unless Detroit drafts a running back early, Zenner isn’t moving.

Decision: Stay

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Dwayne Washington

Tough one to figure out here. Washington had an impressive pre-season that locked him up on the 53 man roster, and while he started off strong his carries and on the field time decreased as the season went on. He ended up with 265 yards on 90 carries and one touchdown, along with 10 catches for 62 yards. He never fumbled, so that wasn’t the issue with the decrease in playing time, it was just that Zach Zenner was playing better and he was finding the right lanes. Washington struggles with finding the hole, sometimes avoiding the big hole for a gain of five or more and running into the offensive line and getting one yard. He is a 50/50 player if Detroit drafts a running back, no matter the round. If that rookie can outplay Washington, expect him to fall to the practice squad.

Decision: Stay

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Michael Burton

The man with no stats. Burton had one pass attempted to go to him, but it was picked off. Burton never carried the ball and you can’t blame him for that. He was a healthy scratch for majority of the season, which begs the question why is he even on the team? Detroit needs a fullback to help block and get the tough one to two yards on third down or on the goal line. Instead, Detroit tried doing that with Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and Theo Riddick. While Zenner could do it time to time, every team needs a fullback and for us not to use him is crazy. I will give him this decision because we NEED a fullback, if we use him correctly our offense could become better on short yardage plays and big goal line stances. If we don’t need him for our offense then let him go, but if we can use him keep him.

Decision: Stay

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Joique Bell

Easiest one to point out the door. Joique Bell came back to Detroit due to injuries and while active in the last three games, he never played. Joique Bell only had one catch for -2 yards, and never ran it once. He just isn’t the same player he once was and we have better backs on the team now than we did when he was in Detroit. Re-signing him would be a mistake.

Decision: Go

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Possible Replacements

  • Justin Forsett
  • Brandon Bolden
  • Chris Johnson
  • Eddie Lacy
  • Dalvin Cook, Florida State
  • D’Onta Foreman, Texas
  • Wayne Gallman, Clemson
  • De’Veon Smith,  Michigan
  • Kareem Hunt, Toledo

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and share your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for myfantasysportstalk.com and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.