Many Detroit Lions fans have wondered why we haven't seen more of rookie running back Kerryon Johnson in the offensive game plan with how seemingly effective he's been through four games when on the field.
That happened to be the first question for Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia at his Monday press conference following Detroit's 26-24 loss in Dallas Sunday to drop their record to 1-3 to start the year.
Why hasn't Johnson received more playing time after an impressive start to his rookie season?
"I think we have a lot of really good running backs and I think we try to use them appropriately," Patricia said. "I think Kerryon played a significant amount of the game (Sunday in Dallas), 20 snaps of 55, that's a good amount, plus we have two other running backs, plus we had a couple two-minute drives in there with some other personnel packages."
For the season, Johnson has played in 104 of Detroit's 274 snaps on offense (38 percent). He has 38 carries for 216 yards (5.7 average) and a touchdown in four games. He's also caught 11 passes for 53 yards.
LeGarrette Blount has played in 70 snaps (26 percent) with 35 carries for 95 yards (2.7 average) without a score.
Theo Riddick has played in 42 percent of the snaps – a lot of those in passing situations – with five carries and 27 yards (5.4 average). He's caught 21 passes for 118 yards.
"You'll find a lot of teams where guys are maybe earlier in the season at a high production level and by the time they get to the end of the season the wear and tear of that position is pretty extreme," Patricia said.
"You kind of take a look at it from a big-picture standpoint, by a game-by-game standpoint, a play-by-play standpoint. We're obviously trying to compete and play at a high level and want to have our best players out there at all times that we can. We feel like we have a really strong running back group. They're all outstanding players and we're just going to continue to try to improve them."
Is there any update on the T.J. Lang injury?
Nothing other than Lang is in the concussion protocol.
Lang's admitted in the past to having multiple concussions, which made the scene at AT&T Stadium Sunday a little scary when Lang seemed to really be struggling after suffering a helmet-to-helmet blow in the first quarter.
Patricia said he always has concern for all his players that are hurt, but will leave all medical decisions on players up to the doctors.
What about a Ziggy Ansah injury update?
Again, per Patricia's injury policy, there's not much of an update other than what we see on the injury report.
How happy has Patricia been with the contributions from his rookie draft class?
First-round pick Frank Ragnow is a starter at left guard and has played two really good games in a row against New England last week and Dallas Sunday.
We talked about Johnson above.
Defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand has become a starter, and is Detroit's most consistently productive player along the defensive line. He has 14 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
Even third-round pick safety Tracy Walker has seen some big minutes early in the season, and played pretty well in some key situations.
"Those guys have really had to step in and play some really important football snaps for us," Patricia said. "I think those guys have done a really good job of learning and trying to adapt to the NFL to our team and to what we expect."
Patricia made the point, however, that those rookies have a long way to go. The NFL is a different kind of animal than college. When the college season is starting to wind down around Week 10, the NFL season really starts heating up.
Where is this team at after the first quarter of the season?
Their record is 1-3, which is obviously not what Patricia and Co. were hoping for.
Patricia called the first quarter "the trickiest" for teams because they're still kind of learning their personnel and how they fit scheme.
Sometimes they haven't seen a lot of their opponents, especially opposing rookies. There's a lot of evaluation still going on in the month of September.
"I think you try to see improvement through the course of the month," Patricia said. "You start to settle in on maybe a couple more players or schemes, just kind of what fits better for your team at that particular time. Then really try to push that second quarter and improve it."
The Lions have home games against Green Bay and Seattle and road games in Miami and Minnesota with their bye week mixed in, during the second quarter of the season.
"We fell short, obviously, in three games," Patricia said of the first quarter of the season. "We have to go out and play better and we expect to win every week and that's what we're trying to do. We've got a lot of work to do and a lot of work in front of us."
What are the challenges of playing Green Bay this week, in the first NFC North matchup for the Lions this season?
Well, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a good place to start. He's simply one of the best in the NFL and the Packers typically go as Rodgers goes.
"He's very, very difficult," Patricia said of Rodgers. "This guy is extremely smart. He's very aware. Obviously, tremendously cool under pressure. There's not a lot that phases this guy. I've played against him a couple times.
"His ability on the field to just make plays happen and get the guys in the right position and diagnose coverage, see the fronts, just run that offense and just be in tune with every single thing that they're doing offensively, he's phenomenal. It'll be a big challenge."