The Detroit Lions have made a concerted effort this offseason to refurbish and retool the league’s worst rushing offense from a year ago to try and be more balanced moving forward.
The team added verteran running back LeGarrette Blount in free agency and drafted running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round of the NFL Draft to help accomplish that goal.
Lions sixth-year veteran running back Theo Riddick says he followed the draft pretty closely. So what was his reaction to the team moving up to select a running back in the second round?
View photos from Phase 2 of the Detroit Lions offseason workouts on May 8, 2018.
“I love it,” Riddick said Tuesday. “I love competition. That’s why you play the game. I think we all do. We can’t wait until he gets here.”
That’s not always the reaction players have when someone is drafted at their position. See Ben Roethlisberger’s comments following the Steelers’ selection of quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round.
Riddick said he’s not worried at all that the additions of Blount and Johnson might lessen some of the opportunities he gets to carry the ball. He believes competition brings the best out of everyone.
“We don’t worry about that,” he said. “We’re adding competition to our room and that makes everyone work harder. You have to bring your A game.”
Riddick has embraced the attempts by the team to make its rushing attack and running back room more competitive. He hopes to sponge as much knowledge as he can from a player like Blount, and plans to be a mentor to the new guy Johnson.
“He’s been to a few Super Bowls and has won a few,” Riddick said of Blount. “He’s just coming off winning the Super Bowl, so that’s a lot of experience. I’m just open and want to learn from him.”
As for being a mentor to Johnson, Riddick said Reggie Bush and Joique Bell were extremely welcoming when he was entering the league as a sixth-round pick in 2013. They showed him the ropes, and he plans to pay it forward with Johnson.
“It definitely helped me help others, especially younger guys, and try to lead and help them make the team and gain knowledge about the game,” Riddick said.
“I put my teammates first. I was always taught that as a player and as a young kid and I continue to put that out.”
The changes Detroit’s made to their run game is really the addition of a power element. General manager Bob Quinn wants a tougher team, and subsequently a tougher rushing element. Not only has that been evident with the additions of Blount and Johnson, but also in drafting center Frank Ragnow in the first round and selecting fullback Nick Bawden in the seventh round.
Power isn’t really Riddick’s game. He's more of a space player that utilizes his quickness, but that certainly doesn’t mean there can't still be a role for him in Detroit's offense moving forward.
Riddick is one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL, and there’s always been a place for that element in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. Riddick has caught at least 50 passes the last three years – he led all backs with 80 receptions in 2015 – and has made plenty of linebackers look silly along the way with his ability to cut and change direction on a dime.
Riddick has a career rushing average of just 2.5 yards, but he’s averaged 55 catches and netted 14 receiving touchdowns over the last four years. That’s certainly been the best part of his game. The additions of Blount and Johnson could allow him to specialize in that role even more, and be a matchup nightmare in passing situations and on third down.
Is that a role Riddick would embrace if asked to do?
"I just want to win," he said. "Doesn’t matter.”