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Lions know run game needs to improve in 2017

General manager Bob Quinn and his staff are already getting to work trying to turn this Detroit Lions roster into one that can compete for a Super Bowl title.

One area in particular this team has to get better is running the football.

"I think anytime you can run the football it helps you win games," quarterback Matthew Stafford said during locker clean out day in Allen Park Monday.

"It helps you control the pace of the game. Maybe late in the game it helps you lock up a win or whatever it is. Especially late in the season, we didn't do a great job running the ball consistently, but it's an area we'll work on and get better."

Stafford has played in 112 career games in Detroit, including the playoffs, and has had a 100-yard rusher to support him just seven times.

Detroit ranked 30th rushing the ball this season, averaging just 81.9 yards per game on the ground. The league average was 108.9 yards per game.

The Lions didn't have a single runner gain at least 100 yards in a game for the third straight year.

In all four losses to end their season, Detroit was outrushed significantly – New York (114-56), Dallas (164-90), Green Bay (153-90) and Seattle (177-49).

Quinn said in a SiriusXM Radio interview last week that he'd "definitely try to get better at the running back position" as well as all the other positions on the roster.

The Lions as a team gained 100 yards rushing just three times this season, but two of those were the first two weeks of the season with Ameer Abdullah, before he was lost for the season with a foot injury.

Detroit also played seven games without Theo Riddick, including the last five due to a wrist injury.

It's hard to say how the season might have been different for Detroit had Abdullah been healthy and Riddick played all the way through. The Lions rushed for 117 and 137 yards in the two games they played together this season.

But unfortunately there's no time for woulda, coulda or shoulda in this league. The NFL is a forward-looking business, and the Lions have to find a way to get more consistency out of the run game.

It will be determined over the course of the next few months if that means additions to the backfield and offensive line, or simply getting healthy and letting natural progression rule the day. Whatever the strategy, it's imperative Detroit finds some way to get more consistency from that part of their offense.

"There's been sometimes when you think at least you have some portion of it headed in the right direction and then we have a bit of a setback," head coach Jim Caldwell said.

"So yeah, that's an area that's certainly very important to us because we have not been very good at that consistently. So we've just got to keep working at it."

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