Patricia doesn't plan to increase RB Johnson's reps


Sorry, Fantasy Football fans, Matt Patricia hates you.

The Detroit Lions coach also hates fun, pencil cases and unicorns -- I'm guessing on that last one, but it feels correct.

Kerryon Johnson is clearly the Lions' best back, yet Patricia said Monday he has no plans to add to the rookie's workload.

"I think we have a lot of really good running backs, and I think we try to use them appropriately," Patricia said, via's Kyle Meinke. "I think Kerryon played a significant amount of the game. He played 20 snaps at 55 [yards], that's a good amount. Plus, we had two other running backs, plus we had a couple two-minute drives in there with some other personnel packages and things like that. So, there were quite a few reps in there for Kerryon."

Through four weeks, Johnson is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on his 38 totes for 216 yards and one score. The rookie's burst, ability to create yards from small creases, speed to the edge, and effectiveness between the tackles is an element the Lions haven't had in eons. Despite Johnson's stellar play, the Lions continue to give the ball to a plodding LeGarrette Blount (35 carries, 95 yards, 2.7 YPC).

Getting behind Sunday in Dallas meant Detroit was in comeback mode, which necessitated the use of pass-catching back Theo Riddick. Johnson's poor pass blocking to date could further hinder his playing time. Pro Football Focus has given the rookie a 20.0 pass protection grade through four games, fourth-worst among qualifying players. Riddick, meanwhile, owns PFF's top pass-protection grade.

If it were simply a case where game-script determined the time, Johnson's usage could be forgiven.

If we take Patricia at his word, however, it wasn't simply a game-script issue, but rather a conscious effort to curtail the rookie's workload. The rocket scientist has studies.

"We do a lot of studies on full seasons and where guys are at at the end of the season, especially running backs," Patricia said. "You'll find a lot of teams where guys, maybe earlier in the season were at a high production level, and then by the time they get to the end of the season, the wear and tear of that position is pretty extreme. So, you get to the end of the year and those guys maybe aren't out there as much.

"You take a look at it from a big picture standpoint, a game-by-game standpoint and a play-by-play standpoint. We're obviously trying to compete and win at a high level. So we want to have our best players out there at all times that we can. We feel that we have a really good, strong running back group. They're all outstanding players and we're just going to continually try to improve them, just like we are every position."

Johnson isn't the first young running back to have his playing time slowed by a coaching staff trying to protect a long-term investment. We went through his last year with Saints dynamic back Alvin Kamara, who was seeing 8.75 touches per game (3.75 carries per tilt) through the first four weeks last season. New Orleans didn't ramp up his running workload much until late and he never saw more than 12 carries in a game last season. Johnson and Kamara obviously aren't the same player, but the idea of not grinding down a young runner is transferable.

That won't stop the locals from screaming for the best running back to see more touches. Perhaps Patricia will soften his stance as the season wears on, but as for now, Detroit won't overuse its most talented rusher.