Having the kind of debut that Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson had Friday night in Detroit's 16-10 loss in Oakland confirmed one thing to the rookie back.
"It's football at the end of the day," Johnson said after combining for 67 total yards on just 11 touches (4.9 average yards per carry), which doesn't include a 57-yard highlight reel run that was called back for holding.
"It's a different level," Johnson admitted. "Of course people are better, of course it's the NFL, but at the end of the day it's a game that comes down to running, tackling and blocking and it's the same game it always has been and is going to keep being."
Johnson did the whole running, blocking and catching thing pretty darn well in his NFL debut. He's been one of the bigger playmakers throughout Lions training camp, and for him to have the kind of debut he did in Oakland just validates what he's been putting on film in practice throughout the first 11 practices of training camp.
Johnson has good vision, patience, burst and power, all of which were on display in that one 57-yard run that was called back for holding.
"I thought, Dang, I'm tired," Johnson said when he saw the flag on the ground after the holding call on the long run. "It happens. It's the first game for everybody. We'll go back and watch it and correct it and work and get better."
The reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year is off and running in his NFL career, and hopes to continue to build on this first performance moving forward.
"The guys are much bigger, much faster, much more athletic here (in the NFL) and I have to say though, it was a great experience, they have some tremendous athletes, and it was a great game," he said.
ABDULLAH LOOKING GOOD
Veteran running back LeGarrette Blount got the start in the Lions' backfield Friday night. Blount carried the ball five times for a total of 21 yards.
Fourth-year back Ameer Abdullah got most of the runs the rest of the first half, and looked pretty good doing it.
Abdullah has been Detroit's primary running back for the better part of the last three years, but the additions of Blount and Johnson could potentially push him down the depth chart. Abdullah wants to remain a component of this offense, and had a nice debut to his 2018 season, carrying the ball four times for 16 yards, including a nice one-yard touchdown in the second quarter on a beautiful cut behind a Frank Ragnow block. He also caught a pass for seven yards.
"I played well,' Abdullah said afterward. "That's what I feel like I was born to do and I'm going to keep doing it."
Abdullah wasn't just relegated to running back duty. He's out to prove he can be a versatile weapon for this team. He fielded two punts for two yards. His first went for six yards, and the second he lost four yards trying to spin backwards away from a tackle. He also was the primary kick returner to start the game, but didn't get an opportunity to return one.
Abdullah is competing for a roster spot with Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington. Of the three – Washington didn't play – Abdullah had the better 2018 debut.
Heading into year No. 10, there isn't much a defense can throw at Matthew Stafford he hasn't already seen.
Also, after two joint practices with the Raiders this week leading into their preseason opener, head coach Matt Patricia felt Stafford got enough good work in this week to give him the night off.
"We got a lot of good work this week," Patricia said. "He took a lot of reps and he saw a lot of different looks. So, that was really kind of the goal, was to come out here and be able to get some of those different team tempo plays and have it scripted and a little bit controlled.
"So, we just thought it was a good opportunity tonight to have the other two guys go out and compete in a great environment, and a good opportunity to let them have some reps."
INJURY FREE A PLUS
There are always going to be bumps, bruises and the soreness that comes with playing a 60-minute football game, but it appeared at least from the surface that the Lions avoided any major injuries in the contest.
Veteran receiver Golden Tate left the game for good after making a short catch and taking a low blow on a tackle. He got up and was flexing his right leg, but never sought attention from the trainers.
Nobody else limped off or needed help getting off, which is a huge plus in the preseason.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders.