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2019 Position Breakdown: Running backs

The good: It was only for a brief two-game stretch at the end of the season, but when Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough got to share Detroit's backfield the final two weeks of the season vs. Denver and Green Bay, the results were pretty good.

Johnson and Scarbrough each averaged better than 4.0 yards per attempt in those contests, and the Lions averaged 4.6 and 6.8 yards per carry as a team in those last two games. Detroit had 171 rushing yards Week 17 against Packers.

Rookie Ty Johnson showed flashes of explosiveness, especially on his 40-yard run at the end of the first half against Green Bay that set up a Matt Prater field goal.

J.D. McKissic was a third-down threat for Detroit, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and catching 34 passes with a touchdown grab.

View photos of the Detroit Lions' running backs from the 2019 season.

The bad: Injury was the big storyline surrounding Kerryon Johnson again this year, making it two years in a row the former second-round pick out of Auburn has landed on IR. Credit to Kerryon for rehabbing his meniscus injury this year and returning for the final two games of the season, but he's now missed 15 games due to injury in his first two seasons.

Are injuries going to be part of his career story? Or could it be a situation like quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was injured in both of his first two seasons, but then went on to start and play in his next 136 games.

Detroit ranked 24th for the amount of 10-plus-yard runs (39) and 20-plus runs (7) they had on the year. They were held without a run of 50-plus yards. The explosive runs weren't always there with this team.

Key stat: The Lions were right around the league average for the percentage of their rushes gaining at least four yards. Detroit reached the mark on 44.5 percent of its rushes. The league average was 44.1 percent.

Free agents: McKissic is a restricted free agent.

If a team wants to bring back one of its restricted free agents, it can choose to place a first-round tender, a second-round tender or an original-round or low tender on them. McKissic was undrafted out of Arkansas State in 2016.

Draft: Kerryon Johnson and Scarbrough seem like a nice one-two punch for the Lions heading into next season, but teams can never have too many good, young running backs.

D'Andre Swift (Georgia), Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin), Travis Etienne (Clemson), J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State), Zack Moss (Utah), Najee Harris (Alabama) and Chuba Hubbard (Oklahoma State) are just a few of the top names in what's expected to be a very deep running back class in 2020.

This is the kind of class where teams are going to find good backs in rounds 2-4.

MVP: I'm giving the nod to Scarbrough for the way he filled in for Kerryon Johnson and kept this Lions rushing attack on track through his six games. He averaged 4.2 yards per rush and brought a physical, down-hill presence to Detroit's backfield. Projecting his numbers over a 16-game season, Scarbrough would have been a 1,000-yard rusher.

Scarbrough and Johnson have contrasting running styles and skill sets that seem to complement each other well.

Most improved: McKissic last got an opportunity to play meaningful reps in 2017 with Seattle. He caught 34 passes that season for a couple scores. He rushed 46 times for 187 yards (4.1) with a touchdown. McKissic gained 205 yards this past season with the Lions on just 38 carries (5.4), improving his average considerably and setting a new career-high mark for a season.

Quotable: "This is my job," Kerryon Johnson said in December of why he wanted to come back off IR the last two weeks of the season, despite some fans questioning that decision. 

"Fans don't determine what I do. I love them, but they don't really have any input on what I do. They don't have to go through my life on a daily basis. If I don't go out there and perform, somebody else might come out and perform and fans will be fans of that guy."

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