Kerryon Johnson finished the preseason averaging 4.5 yards per carry on 15 rushing attempts. He caught five passes out of the backfield, showing that can be part of his arsenal as well. He also held his own in pass protection, and even showed some ability to return kickoffs.
"(I showed) what they thought I could do," Johnson said Monday of his three preseason performances. "They drafted me to run the ball. They drafted me to be a complete back. They drafted me to play. I went out and played and gave it my all. I ran, I blocked, I caught. I did what I was supposed to do."
Now the focus for Johnson, the Lions' offense, and particularly the revamped rushing attack, is to hit the ground running as the calendar flips into regular season mode, and the Lions prepare for a Week 1 matchup with the New York Jets.
The Lions seem to have a running back by committee approach, but Johnson's skills are unique in that he combines power, speed and the ability to be a three-down player all in the same frame.
"Whatever role that forms into, I guess we'll know next Monday and from every week on out," he said.
Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said he saw more good than bad from Johnson in the preseason, and plans to kind of let his role define itself.
"He's the right kind of guy," Cooter said of Johnson Monday. "He's working hard at it. I look forward to sort of letting his role within the offense show itself as his talent level does and his learning does as his sort of just being a young player and getting better as an NFL player does.
"We're encouraged where Kerryon is heading and we look forward to kind of letting those roles define themselves as we get going."
It will be a highly anticipated debut for Johnson in a Lions' offense that hopes to be more balanced than it's been in recent years. The Lions were last in the NFL a year ago in rushing yards per game (76.3) and yards per carry (3.4).
Detroit's talked all offseason about wanting to be more physical on both sides of the ball. Being able to run the ball downhill and impose the tempo on a defense is one of the best ways to show that physicality. The Jets ranked 24th stopping the run a year ago.
"We have all the potential in the world," Johnson said. "But potential is one thing. Going and doing it is another. That's what it comes down to. Next Monday we have to go out and do it."
We'll find out in less than a week how big a role Johnson has in Detroit's backfield to begin the season. Veterans LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick are expected to get some run as well. Johnson is excited to be in regular season mode. He can sense the excitement from the fan base to see something new and improved from the Lions' run game.
"When you're a skill player draft pick, that's going to happen," Johnson said of that buzz. "It's kind of expected. You can't let it get to you. I have a job to do. We have a job to do. That just means you have further to fall.
"You have to come out with your head on straight. You have to come out and do your job."
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018.