Kerryon Johnson should be main beneficiary of Lions' new offense

Kerryon Johnson could be the big winner in the Lions' change in offensive philosophy. Steven King/Icon Sportswire

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are still learning the offense they'll run in 2019 and how new coordinator Darrell Bevell wants to run things compared to his predecessor, Jim Bob Cooter. There will be different plays, different checks, different calls and a different philosophy.

At least one person in the Lions' offensive meeting room, though, understands how much this new offense might benefit him: Kerryon Johnson.

Bevell and head coach Matt Patricia have been clear they want to have a diverse plan that focuses on the run. In Seattle, Bevell's teams averaged 131.9 yards per game rushing. In Minnesota under Bevell, the Vikings averaged 133.2 yards a game. So Johnson, who averaged 5.4 yards per carry last season, will be the main beneficiary.

"We all know what he likes to do," Johnson said, "what he brings to the table."

And the way the Lions drafted this year -- along with the free agents they brought in and the returning pieces Detroit has -- fits the Patricia-Bevell vision well. They revamped the tight end position, signing Jesse James and Logan Thomas in free agency and drafting a strong blocker in T.J. Hockenson at No. 8 overall and a versatile tight end in Isaac Nauta in the seventh round.

They have two deep-threat receivers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. and an experienced over-the-middle option in slot receiver Danny Amendola. Matthew Stafford remains the quarterback and the running back room should have Johnson getting the most work.

Johnson also knows some will look at what Bevell did in Seattle and the back he primarily worked with, Marshawn Lynch, and wonder if Johnson can replicate that. Johnson, who is entering his second year out of Auburn, dismissed that notion quickly. Beyond having different running styles and builds (Lynch is almost 10 pounds heavier), there's also this: Lynch is unique in almost every way.

Not that Johnson hasn't watched Lynch or tried to emulate him to some degree. He has. But to compare the two would be foolish.

"Everybody has watched 'Beast Mode' run, and only one person can do it, and it's him," Johnson said. "So you can try to take little things, the way he drives his legs, the way he moves his feet, the way he's always leaning forward and never loses yards. Try to copy that would get you messed up.

"He's just one of a kind and it just is what it is. He came through. He blessed the league with his play and he blessed the rest of the running backs with being able to watch him, and you take that and give him the heads-up and you got to go back to playing the football that you know how to play."

For Johnson, that's a patient style with the decisiveness to hit holes instantaneously when he sees them. He can break big runs but doesn't possess the game-breaking speed other backs have. He recognizes that, too, and candidly did so after a 71-yard run against the Dolphins last season when he got caught from behind.

It wasn't the first time it has happened to him, he said. Likely won't be the last, either. But Johnson also has been working on refining his game entering his second season. His offseason training, since there wasn't a combine to prepare for, could be more focused and regimented with what he needed to do to get better and healthy for 2019.

Unlike some of his teammates, adjusting to a new scheme isn't as big of a deal. He had to do it last season as a rookie with the Lions, which was his third new offensive playbook in three years. One thing Johnson is aware of, though, is that Bevell could be a big positive for him, his career and for how he wants to run in 2019.

"Yeah, that's obviously good news for me, but we're a complete team," Johnson said. "We're trying to be a complete team. We're trying to be a complete offense. We're trying to be complete players, so we understand you can't run the ball 100 percent of the time and you can't throw the ball 100 percent of the time.

"We just want to be as balanced as possible and score as many points."

Every team says it wants to do the above. If the Lions -- led by Johnson and Bevell -- are able to, it could go a long way toward solving their offensive woes from last season.