Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson avoided the worst-case scenario after suffering a sprained knee against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, but his status for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Bears is in serious doubt.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Johnson doesn’t need surgery and will be week-to-week, meaning Johnson could return before the end of the season. However, the immediate outlook isn’t so promising.
Given that the Bears and Lions have just three days between games, it’s unlikely Johnson will play on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. That would leave the Lions splitting carries between an underwhelming LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, and Zach Zenner. It’s quite a drop-off from Johnson, who picked up 87 yards on 15 carries before leaving with an injury on Sunday. In his absence, Blount and Riddick combined for eight carries and one yard, while Zenner didn’t even get a carry. It should go without saying, but Johnson’s availability changes the entire complexion of Detroit’s offense. Running was going to be difficult against a stout Bears defense, but doing so without Johnson makes the task that much more difficult.
Johnson’s rookie year performance has brought hope to a running game where there was none before. In what has long been a one-dimensional, pass-first offense, Johnson has 641 rushing yards, three touchdowns, and two games with 100+ rushing yards. That’s a major accomplishment for a Lions running back these days. But without him, Detroit will probably have to go to LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick to execute on the ground. Or a more likely scenario would have quarterback Matthew Stafford dropping back and slinging it 50 times per game, which probably sounds enticing to Eddie Jackson and the rest of the Bears secondary.