Zenner could see an increased workload in 2016

Posted Feb 19, 2016

Running back Zach Zenner could see an increased workload next season in Jim Bob Cooter's offense.

The Lions have parted ways with veteran running back Joique Bell, which means Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner are currently the top three backs heading into the 2015 season without any additions to the position via free agency or the draft this offseason.

Zenner in particular could see a considerable increase to his touches in the between the tackles and short yardage running role Bell was previously used in.

Zenner was limited to just four carries over the first four games of the season in 2015, but had 10 carries vs. Arizona Week 5 and was running well (5.0 average) vs. Chicago Week 6 before suffering broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung that required surgery and ended his season.

His season ended before Jim Bob Cooter took over the reigns of the offense, and the run game went from averaging less than 70.0 yards per game (69.6) the first half of the season to 97.3 yards over the last eight games.

“I’m very excited,” Zenner said after the season when asked about Cooter's offense as it pertains to the run game. “I love the run game, obviously. I know even Jim Bob would say that he wants to run the ball even more, so I think we’re going to get that rolling and that’s the game plan right now.”

Abdullah led the Lions in carries as a rookie with 143 and appears poised to have that workload increased with Bell no longer in the mix. Riddick is also expected to see more carries, but he’s shown to be at his best so far catching passes and utilizing his quickness and soft hands out of the backfield in the passing game.

Zenner can see an increased role as a change-of-pace back if he wins the job in training camp. The Lions will likely add competition to the backfield this offseason.

There’s a lot Zenner said he learned from an albeit brief rookie campaign that he’ll take into his second season.

“The tempo of the game, the speed of the game, how special teams plays and how the run game feels and the differences between college and pro,” Zenner said of lessons learned this past season.

“Just experience, really, is probably the biggest takeaway and getting the snaps I was able to get.”

There is the potential those snaps see a significant uptick in 2016 and the three-time 2,000-yard rusher in college plays a bigger role in Detroit’s backfield with Abdullah and Riddick.