MIAMI – The Detroit Lions are likely to implement a two-running back system next year, potentially featuring Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough, with Ty Johnson also projected to get into the mix.
Former league rushing leader in 2011, three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Maurice Jones-Drew, was part of a two-back system in Jacksonville early in his career alongside Fred Taylor. Later on, he played the bell-cow role for the Jaguars' run game.
He's done it both ways, and thinks the multiple-back system is still the best way to go.
"I think in this league you can have two receivers, you can have two tight ends ... but you can't have two backs, like that's a negative thing. No," Jones-Drew said at last week's Super Bowl.
"Listen, if we're both going crazy, why wouldn't you want two backs? I just literally saw the 49ers win a game throwing the ball eight times. I have never ever seen a team win a game running the ball eight times. Ever. Been a part of some of those, it don't work."
"So, why not get two really good running backs, or two great running backs, that you can go back and forth with all the time. That, to me, would be my way if I'm building a team, build the offensive line, defensive line first, but then the next thing is I want two great running backs. Period. When one gets tired, put the next one in, and my third guy is going to be a special teams core guy, but a guy that can tote the rock as well."
View photos of the Detroit Lions' stat leaders from the 2019 season.
Barry Sanders said essentially the same thing when asked about Detroit's run game in 2020. He said having two guys that complement each other can be tough on a defense to defend. We've seen this season how the 49ers have rode a stacked backfield all the way to the Super Bowl.
Both Johnson and Scarbrough averaged better than 4.0 yards per attempt sharing Detroit's backfield the final two weeks of the season vs. Denver and Green Bay. The Lions averaged 4.6 and 6.8 yards per carry as a team in those last two games.
The plan heading into next season should be for both guys to get run in Detroit's backfield, along with Ty Johnson and potentially others. It's not likely to be a one-man show leading Detroit's backfield next season.
Jones-Drew said he got a lot out of playing and learning alongside Taylor, but also competing against him too. He said it brought out the best in both backs.
Detroit's hoping for a similar result next season with a backfield that's expected to be run by committee.