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Lions' run game in capable hands with Johnson & Scarbrough

MOBILE, Ala. – While running back Kerryon Johnson's knee injury last season was unfortunate, it did allow the Detroit Lions to test their depth at the position.

While Johnson mended his knee and worked his way back, running backs coach Kyle Caskey and the Lions found themselves a pretty good player in second-year back Bo Scarbrough, who did a nice job holding down Detroit's run game in Johnson's place.

When Johnson returned from IR Week 16, Caskey and the Lions got a look at the duo together, and they liked what they saw.

The Lions gained 267 yards on the ground in their last two games vs. Denver and Green Bay with Johnson and Scarbrough sharing the backfield and Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic playing minor roles as well. Detroit averaged 5.8 yards per attempt in those two contests. Kerryon averaged 4.3 yards per carry and Scarbrough 4.4 yards over that span.

With both Kerryon and Scarbrough under contract for 2020, the Lions' running game seems to be in capable hands heading into next season.

View photos of Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay and wide receiver Kenny Golladay during NFC Pro Bowl practice Wednesday, Jan 22, 2020.

"I thought they complement each other well because really they kind of do the same things," Caskey said after Tuesday's North Team practice at the Senior Bowl. "They both have the ability to run like a big back, but they also have the ability to get out in space and do some things.

"Both of them were nicked up throughout the year and it was good to be able to rotate those guys (the final two weeks of the season) and save them throughout the game because they were a little bit more fresh than they would have been if it was just them running by themselves like it was early in the year.

"I think that also led to guys like Ty (Johnson) and J.D. (McKissic) falling into their roles and really showing up at the end of the year because they weren't being asked to carry the whole team, either.

Caskey is in Mobile evaluating North Team running backs Darius Anderson (5-10, 195; TCU), Jamycal Hasty (5-8, 205; Baylor) and Joshua Kelley (5-10, 214; UCLA). The Lions will do their due diligence evaluating all of this year's running back class, but Caskey certainly seems to like what he currently has.

"I think the pieces we have we can work with, and they're willing pieces," Caskey said. "That's the fun part about it. They really love football. They like each other, which doesn't happen all the time.

"Even a guy like Ty (Johnson) getting all the playing time he got. Most sixth-round rookie running back draftees don't get thrown into the mix the way he got thrown in and it was kind of nice to get him some experience."

Ty rushed 63 times for 273 yards (4.3) and caught 24 passes playing in 311 snaps as a rookie.

"They actually feed off each other," Caskey said of Detroit's running back room. "If one guy raises their game, everybody else has to raise their game, too. They push each other that way, instead of feeling threatened by competition. That's awesome."

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