Snap observations: Opener provides little clarity on Lions' RB rotation
Detroit — One of the more intriguing elements heading into the season opener was how the Detroit Lions would deploy their stable of running backs.
Of the outcomes that came to fruition in the 48-17 loss, veteran LeGarrette Blount getting the start was the most expected. Beyond that, little can be ascertained from the Week 1 snap counts, first, because Blount was injured in the third quarter and didn't return, and two, the score was so lopsided and almost certainly altered the strategy and reliance on specific skill sets.
Riddick, the team's best receiving option, obviously saw a significant boost in playing time because of the score. He led the rotation by a wide margin, seeing 41 snaps of work. Rookie Kerryon Johnson, who entered the game in the second quarter, was the next closest with 16 snaps, edging out Blount's 13.
Here are some additional observations from Monday's snap count report:
►With Ziggy Ansah missing the entire second half, and the Lions already light on defensive linemen because A'Shawn Robinson and Romeo Okwara were among the healthy scratches, the interior linemen had to play a heavier work load then you'd like to see. Veteran Ricky Jean Francois, who didn't even join the roster until training camp, and 330-pound nose tackle Sylvester Williams each played 47 snaps.
The heavy workload was nothing new for Williams, who often handled something similar while with the Denver Broncos from 2013-16, but he's coming off a year where he averaged 23 snaps per game. Francois, a 10-year pro, played a grand total 148 snaps in 12 games last season and hadn't played as many as he did last night since 2014.
►Personnel groupings are going to be match-up based, but for a team that had looked primed to be more committed to the run this offseason, the Lions offense averaged 2.97 wide receivers on the field for the team's 70 offensive snaps.
►The preseason playing time trend for cornerback Jamal Agnew carried over to the regular season. He played 23 snaps on defense, to go with 17 on special teams. Last year's second-round pick Teez Tabor, on the other hand, was limited to two, injury-replacement snaps.
Nevin Lawson was clearly the trusted No. 2 cornerback for the opener.
►There's clearly no lead dog in the tight end rotation as the four options split playing time close to evenly. Levine Toilolo, the big-bodied blocking option, paced the group with 20 reps, with preseason standout Hakeem Valles on the field for 19 plays. Michael Roberts and Luke Willson each saw 14.
►Somewhat expected, given his versatility and the way the Lions were using him on the practice field during training camp, Quandre Diggs is now an every-down player. He should be considered a safety in base defense, with the ability to man the slot in nickel and dime sub-package looks.
Offense snap counts
|Rick Jean Francois||DT||47||78%|
Special teams snaps
|Rick Jean Francois||DT||9||28%|