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The Lions lost their preseason opener and there was stuff to like and other things that were concerning. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News

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Oakland, Calif. – With an impressive debut performance in the preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson rubber-stamped the buzz he has been generating throughout training camp.

Playing 40 snaps, Johnson led the team in yards from scrimmage, despite his biggest play, a 57-yard romp around the left edge, getting called back due to a holding penalty. Johnson showed vision and burst as both a ball carrier and pass catcher, tallying 34 yards with seven carries and another 33 yards with four catches on five targets.

After the game, Johnson said the performance assured him he belonged, that the skills that made him a successful back at Auburn will port to the increased size and speed of the pro game.

But beyond Johnson’s on-field showing, part of what makes him such an exciting prospect is his passion for the game, his frustration with losing, even in the meaningless setting of the preseason, and focus on improvement.

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“It’s still a loss and I hate to lose anything,” Johnson said. “To me, I didn’t make enough plays in the beginning, I didn’t make enough plays at the end. I still have work to do.”

Minutes after the final whistle, he was talking about his need to get better and the things he did wrong. When asked if there was a mistake that stood out, he instantly recalled the one bothering him the most.

“I had a catch, going out of bounds and didn’t get the first down,” he said. “I think it was second down. I just had a check-down route and I didn’t get it and went out of bounds. I’d really like to get that first down and keep that drive going. There’s nothing I can do about that now except go back and watch it, go back and fix it and go back to work.”

On second-and-6, Johnson came out of the backfield on a delayed route and took a short throw from quarterback Jake Rudock. The back quickly had two defenders on him and was driven out of bounds after four yards when he attempted to take a wide angle.

Rudock misfired short to tight end Hakeem Valles on third down and the Lions were forced to punt.

Without reviewing the film, Johnson had a good idea how he would handle the situation if given another opportunity.

“Next time, put the shoulder down.”

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