Allen Park — If the Detroit Lions' ground game is going to reach its full potential, fullback Nick Bawden figures to play a part.
Bawden struggled in the season opener, his pro debut. He played 21 snaps and noticeably missed on several blocking assignments. Pro Football Focus graded him as the offense's worst player that game.
After missing his rookie season with a torn ACL, it's possible he might have been over-eager after the forced layoff.
"I don’t think anything was much different for me other than trying to do my job, just trying to stay within the parameters of what they want me to be doing each play versus trying to go out and hit everybody as hard as I can," Bawden said. "That’s not really what I should be doing on every, single play. Sometimes, it calls for that in certain situations, but sometimes it doesn’t.
"I was super excited," Bawden admitted. "You know how it is. I was just dropping my head a little too much and lean into it. I was focused on getting back a little bit more to the fundamentals."
Against the Chargers on Sunday, Bawden played fewer snaps, but looked far more poised when he was on the field. He delivered his best block on Detroit's longest run of the game, a 17-yard carry by rookie Ty Johnson.
"It was nice," Johnson said. "Nick sealed up the linebacker and everything. He just got on him, cleared up the picture for me really well. The block, if you watch it, he essentially blocked all three linebackers."
That's the vision, having the 6-foot-4, 245 pound Bawden leading the way through the line, putting a body on a linebacker, or three, and clearing the way.
"It’s an important part of the offense," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "I feel like he is kind of the tone-setter. Beside our offensive line, it’s always great to be able to have a hammer, a guy that kind of brings your blue-collar mentality. That’s really what Nick does for us."