In order to learn more about Philly’s new running back, I thought it’d benefit BGN readers to get a Detroit Lions perspective. So, I reached out to the magnanimous Mike Payton (@POD_Payton) of Pride Of Detroit. Here’s what he had to say about Johnson.
1 - Can you recap Johnson’s career with the Lions?
Johnson came into Detroit with much fanfare. Lions fans fell in love with him immediately on draft night and doubled down on that emotion at camp. For a minute it looked like Johnson was going to be the guy that finally shored up the Lions run game woes that they’ve had since Barry Sanders retired. In his third game with the Lions, he broke a 100-yard rusher streak that had been going since 2013 when Reggie Bush was the Lions’ running back. Two weeks later he flexed all over the Dolphins for 158 yards and the love for him was at a fever pitch. He was the guy and everyone knew it.
Four weeks later he sprained his knee against the Panthers and was never the same again. He missed the last six games of the year and then again in 2019 he missed another eight weeks when he hurt the same knee again and needed surgery. In 2020 it felt like he wasn’t even on the team. He had just 52 carries for 181 yards the whole year. He did show that he could pass block though.
Sadly he added himself to a long list of Lions running backs that were in fact, not the guy.
2 - How did fans feel about the Lions waiving him?
It’s kind of a mixed response. Lions fans really liked Kerryon’s personality and felt that maybe some of his issues were caused by Matt Patricia just ignoring his existence in 2020. The fact is that D’Andre Swift is the better back and really showed that he could be the Lions' top back going forward. The Lions also signed Jamaal Willimas and drafted Jermar Jefferson. As upsetting as it was for some Lions fans, the fact is that it’s hard to see where Johnson fit in with this group.
3 - What are Johnson’s strengths?
Right now it's pass blocking. We’ve seen so little of Johnson lately that it’s hard to pick anything exciting. But you’ll really love what you see in that aspect. It’s been a while since he’s flashed something, but he has moments where he looks unstoppable.
4 - What are Johnson’s weaknesses?
Frankly, it’s that [surgically repaired] knee. It’s affected his first move. He doesn't cut like he used to and it causes him to just run right up the middle instead of improvising. He already struggled in between the tackles as it were, this doesn’t help that out.
5 - How do you envision the rest of his NFL career playing out?
I really hope he has a big comeback in Philly. I hope that we haven’t seen the last of Kerryon Johnson and maybe the Lions regret parting with him in the long run. I really do. But right now, I look at Johnson as a guy who might bounce around the league for a while until he finds a nice niche as a role player somewhere. I’m not sure how he fits in with the Eagles or how long he’ll actually be there. Maybe he just needs a bigger chance.
6 - I’ve heard that Johnson is a fun personality. What should we know about him off the field?
He’s very funny. With Johnson, you’re going to get a guy that’s outspoken in many ways. He plays video games with fans, rags on his teammates online in funny ways, and is always a presence on Twitter. Johnson isn’t afraid to speak out or be political either. He’s just a great all-around guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously. Reporters will love him.
My favorite Johnson moment was just a few weeks ago when I wrote in an article that Johnson could be cut loose, Johnson liked the article on Twitter. I took that as a sign that stuff like that doesn’t bother him. He’s gonna be Kerryon no matter what.
BLG’s take: Johnson is still only 23 years old. I don’t know how high his upside is after multiple knee injuries but there very well might be hope for him. It’s a good low-risk addition for the Eagles. Johnson provides more competition for the third-down running back role, which Miles Sanders struggle in last year. Johnson will have to earn his spot on the 2021 roster and it’s quite possible he’ll do just that as a No. 2 or No. 3 option in the backfield. His acquisition could be bad news for Jordan Howard (also good in pass pro), who only signed a minimum contract to return to Philly.