Player Spotlight: Ty Johnson, Detroit Lions
Lions running back Ty Johnson is set to begin his second season in a loaded Detroit backfield and take his game to the next level.
Detroit selected Johnson in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Johnson played college football at the University of Maryland, where he racked up 2,635 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards per carry over his four years as a Terrapin. He also finished with 1,194 yards and two touchdowns on kick and punt returns, displaying the versatility that NFL teams often value in late-round flyers.
Johnson didn’t see the field much in his rookie year, starting in just one game and totaling 273 rushing yards. Still, he averaged 4.3 yards per rush and added 109 receiving yards. On special teams, Johnson averaged 19.3 yards per kickoff return.
The Lions, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, had another down year in 2019. They finished 3-12-1 and ended up in last place in the NFC North. The team ranked 18th in total points scored in the regular season, but their defense ranked 26th in points allowed. After beating the Giants to even up their record at 3-3-1 in Week 8, Detroit went on a nine-game losing streak to close the season.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who’s known for his durability, started just eight games last season due to a back injury. The Lions lost all eight games in which they started backups David Blough and Jeff Driskel. Still, wide receiver Kenny Golladay totaled 1,190 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, and receiver Marvin Jones added 779 yards and nine touchdowns.
Detroit’s running backs performed fairly well despite their inexperience and the team’s running-back-by-committee approach. Kerryon Johnson established himself as the lead back and finished with 403 yards and three touchdowns in seven starts. Alabama product Bo Scarbrough gained 377 yards on the ground and scored one touchdown as well.
Though Kerryon Johnson, Scarbrough, and Ty Johnson are all returning, the Lions still picked running backs D’Andre Swift and Jason Huntley in April’s draft. Swift, who played at the University of Georgia, was the second running back selected in the draft. The Lions also picked cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick, as well as two offensive linemen.
Ty Johnson will have his work cut out for him in this upcoming preseason. Swift could very well take over as the Lions’ number one running back, and Kerryon Johnson and Scarbrough have both proven they can break down NFL defenses.
Thankfully, Johnson and the Lions will have little to no pressure on them this year. They’re a young team with many players that still require development, meaning Johnson and others will have the opportunity to compete for starting jobs. 2020 will be another rebuilding year for Detroit and its rapidly improving backfield.