Lions place Kerryon Johnson on IR, activate Agnew

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Kerryon Johnson

Allen Park -- With the possibility of a playoff berth out the window, the Detroit Lions have decided the best course of action is to keep Kerryon Johnson on the shelf. 

The team placed the rookie running back on injured reserve on Wednesday. To fill the roster opening, the Lions are activating cornerback Jamal Agnew off injured reserve. 

Prior to suffering a knee injury against Carolina last month, Johnson was in the midst of an outstanding debut campaign. In 10 games, he racked up 854 yards from scrimmage, leading a revitalized ground game by averaging 5.4 yards per carry. 

In Week 3, against New England, Johnson broke Detroit's record drought without a 100-yard rusher, going for 101 yards on 16 carries in a 26-10 victory over the Patriots. He topped the century mark again three games later, breaking out for 158 in the team's post-bye trouncing of the Miami Dolphins. 

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Had he stayed healthy, Johnson was on course to become Detroit's first 1,000-yard rusher since Reggie Bush accomplished the feat five years ago. 

The Lions traded up to land Johnson in the draft this offseason. Packaging their original second-round choice (No. 51) with their fourth-round selection to New England, the Lions moved up eight spots to snag Johnson No. 43 overall. 

A workhorse who carried the ball 285 times last season for Auburn, the Lions conservatively managed Johnson's workload this season, never giving him more than 20 carries, while averaging fewer than a dozen. 

Johnson sprained his knee on his final carry of the season, a field-reversing run against the Panthers on Nov. 18. He hasn't practiced since. 

"Kerryon, obviously, was great when he was out there, and it’s part of the season of growing and learning as a young player," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "But right now it’s all about the Vikings for us and the players that we have."

Even with Johnson out of the lineup, the Lions have continued to run the ball well. Using a mix of LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick and the recently re-signed Zach Zenner, the team has averaged 4.1 yards per carry the past four games, scoring four times on the ground.  

The Lions also added a running back to the practice squad, former Texas Tech standout Justin Stockton.

As for Agnew, he returns to action after a nine-game absence. He suffered a knee injury while breaking up a pass in the end zone against Green Bay in early October. 

A first-team All-Pro punt returner as a rookie last season, Agnew had been struggling to replicate his 2017 success in that department. He averaged 15.4 yards on punts last season, but was averaging 5.6 yards prior to the injury. 

As a defensive back, he was playing a much larger role in his second year, seeing nearly 24 snaps per game while largely covering the slot.  

"He’s someone that works really hard and has really done everything we’ve asked to push through his situation," Patricia said. "In the beginning part of the year, and really through the spring, there was a lot of growth and a lot of development there, not only in special teams but on defense, which was great to see. He was someone that was helping us win early in the season and put us in a situation to at least be competitive, and that was good."