Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson has provided a spark for the Detroit Lions' run game this season. The rookie is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has shown elusiveness, speed and power leading the Lions in rushing through four games.
He is quickly becoming a player opposing defenses have to account for, especially if he continues to have chunk plays like the 32-yard run on the game's opening play in Dallas Sunday.
That was a terrific run by Johnson to open the game showing his quickness, but it's his eight-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that featured his power that's the focus of this week's Film Review.
The Lions are trailing 20-10 with 14:31 left in the game and facing a 1st and goal at the Dallas 8-yard line. The Lions are in 11 personnel with three receivers, one tight end and Johnson as the single back.
The receiver on the outside right is cornerback Jamal Agnew, who in the second quarter was given a jet sweep going left to right. Agnew gained 17 yards to set up a Matt Prater field goal.
Before the snap on this play, the Lions send Agnew into motion right to left showing the possibility of the jet sweep again.
The Cowboys are in a nickel defense with safety Xavier Woods, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and linebacker Jaylon Smith in the center of the defense.
Here's where those three players are lined up when Agnew begins his motion left.
The Cowboys have to respect Agnew's speed and the potential for the jet sweep left, especially after it was already run successfully once, so look at what his motion does to the defensive alignment and how much Woods, Vander Esch and Smith shift to the left to get into position to possibly have to stop the jet sweep.
The Lions have everyone on the Cowboys' defense shifting left with the Agnew motion, and then hand the ball off to Johnson going off tackle right.
Right tackle Rick Wagner, who was the highest graded offensive lineman in the game for the Lions by Pro Football Focus, gets the play off to a good start with a good block on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
Next are the blocks by tight end Luke Willson on Smith and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. on cornerback Anthony Brown. Willson also made the key block on Johnson's 32-yard scamper to start the game. He's proving to be a very good run blocker for this team.
Some running backs just have a natural ability to set up blocks and defenders. Johnson appears to be one of those backs.
Johnson waits until the last moment to cut inside off Jones' block, which makes Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie have to keep his outside contain. When Johnson finally makes his cut inside at the last moment, he's set up Awuzie in such a way he's no longer a factor as a tackler.
The one man not accounted for by blockers on the play is Cowboys safety Jeff Heath. It's Johnson vs. Heath, man-to-man at the 2-yard line, and Johnson wins the battle by exhibiting his power and completely running over Heath, who at 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds is bigger than Johnson (5-11, 206).
Lions center Graham Glasgow can't quite get to the second level to get a clean block on Vander Esch, but because of the Agnew motion, and Vander Esch having to make up that distance he shifted over pre-snap, he's not in a good position of leverage on Johnson at the goal line, and the rookie back is able to carry Vander Esch into the end zone for the score.
Johnson has shown us through four games there's a lot in his running repertoire, and on this play in particular, his power was showcased.