Theo Riddick's ability to catch the football out of the backfield and make defenders miss in the open field has been a well-documented and much celebrated part of his game over the years. It was only a few seasons ago Riddick led all running backs with 80 receptions ( 2015). He holds two of Pro Football Focus' 12 best seasons in missed tackles forced per reception, and his 36 missed tackles forced (on receptions) in 2015 is the PFF record by a running back.
Those are the kinds of things that show up on the stat sheet and the highlight tape with Riddick. Two things that don't, but are equally as important to the overall success of the Detroit Lions, are Riddick's intelligence and how terrific of a pass protector he is.
"Being on this side of it and being in the meeting room with him you also get to actually see the cerebral side of his approach and what he understands," head coach Matt Patricia said of Riddick. "Taking a look at the different things that he can do based on what he sees out on the field and how he can respond to that really quickly. There's a big mental part to the game with him that is the reason why he's been so productive."
Riddick is in the backfield a lot on passing situations because of his unique skillset. While a lot of those situations involve him sneaking out of the backfield to catch passes or lining up wide to be a matchup weapon for Jim Bob Cooter's offense, the times when Riddick has to pick up the blitz and be a pass protector are just as important.
Riddick was in the game for 74 pass-blocking snaps last season, and allowed just one sack and six total pressures for a pass-blocking efficiency percentage of 96.3 from PFF. That was sixth best among all running backs last season.
"Obviously, we have to protect the QB at all costs if we want to win," Riddick said Monday. "In a sense, pay attention more to details."
Defenses around the league are getting even more complicated and creative in the ways they dial up pressure. The ability to see the field and understand it is a trait that serves Riddick very well in the passing game.
"With all the different defensive packages that teams run and disguises from fronts and pressure standpoints, insides outside, that's really a very complex sort of assignment to be able to handle, especially in those critical situations and he does an excellent job of deciphering that and really being on the same page as the quarterback as far as where the extra man is coming from," Patricia said.
Riddick is expected to continue to play a dual role in Detroit's backfield alongside LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson, who were added to the roster this offseason to help bolster the run game. The trio gives the Lions some versatility they previously didn't have.
"I think we have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things and do them well," Riddick said. "That's going to help us down the line."