Darrell Bevell sees no reason to change things now in the run game.
With the Minnesota Vikings’ terrible defense coming to town Sunday, the Detroit Lions interim head coach said Wednesday he’ll continue with the same running back rotation for the season finale at Ford Field.
That means rookie D’Andre Swift will start and get a chance at some serious yards against the Vikings’ 28th-ranked run defense, a week after he was held to 45 yards by Tampa Bay’s top-ranked run defense.
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“I think we’ll continue to handle them the way that we have,” Bevell said during a conference call. “D’Andre is going to be the starting running back, and then we’ll go from there with how we want to divvy up the rest of the carries. Kerryon (Johnson) will obviously end up being the third-down back, that type of situation, and we’ll continue to move that way.”
The last time the Lions played Minnesota, former Vikings legend Adrian Peterson got the start, his last before Swift took over as the regular starter. Swift averaged 4.9 yards a carry on 13 touches in the November loss at Minnesota, when the Lions rushed for 129 yards in a 34-20 loss.
This time around, the Vikings are even more of a hot mess — especially against the run. Alvin Kamara and the Saints ran for 264 yards against in last week’s 52-33 rout in New Orleans. That marked the sixth straight game the Vikings have allowed at least 100 rushing yards.
Peterson, 35, is likely to depart as a free agent after the season, so the only question about his role in the season finale is how much of a bow he gets to take in what will likely be his final game wearing Honolulu Blue and Silver.
Johnson, who has one year left on his rookie contract and has become a third-down specialist entrusted with pass protection duties, faces bigger questions.
His role has diminished with Swift’s steady improvement, and his production has dropped drastically. He has 52 carries for 181 yards,well off the production he had in fewer games in each of his first two seasons.
Bevell struggled to provide a good answer for why Johnson’s role had shrunk so much this season.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I think I would have to wrap my brain around a lot of that, but I think, right now, we just have a very distinct role for him. He really does excel at that role.
“I know I said earlier in the year, one of the games he was the MVP of the game. Sometimes, some of the stuff he does goes unnoticed. I think he’s done a fair job for us, or a nice job for us, when he has been given opportunities to run the ball as well. But right now, that’s just kind of the role that we’ve given him.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' D'Andre Swift could be in for a huge game vs. Vikings