Kerryon Johnson pumped Lions got 'phenomenal' running back mate in D'Andre Swift

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

The addition of a high-profile draft pick in the NFL can easily be perceived as a threat to a veteran's role, or even their job, but Detroit Lions starting running back Kerryon Johnson is thrilled the team selected Georgia's D'Andre Swift in the second round. 

Well, other than the fact news of the addition in late April interrupted Johnson's marathon viewing of the "Harry Potter" movie series. 

D'Andre Swift

"Look, I knew we were going to draft a running back eventually," Johnson said during a video conference with local media Wednesday. "I think we got, in my opinion, definitely one of the top two (in the draft). I love having a running back. I love winning games and I think he can help us do that, so I wasn't tripping at all."

Johnson's admiration for Swift's games go back to the college matchups they had both playing in the SEC while Johnson was at Auburn. 

"He's a phenomenal player," Johnson said. "I remember playing against him in college. I hated seeing him, every time. We played against Nick Chubb and Sony (Michel) and I'm telling you, when that kid stepped on the field, he's lightning in a bottle. He's a threatening to go 80 yards, 70, 60, every time he touches it.

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"He's a lot more elusive than I am, I would say so, and I think everybody would agree to that," Johnson said. "But just having multiple running backs that are capable of running the ball at an efficient level, whether the style is different or the style is the same, just take the stress off one another."

Johnson, a second-round pick in 2018, has shown plenty of promise in his two seasons with the Lions, but he's also battled knee injuries that have sidelined 14 games. In 18 appearances, he's averaged 4.5 yards per carry, while helping halt the franchise's lengthy drought without a 100-yard rusher as a rookie. 

As for how the backfield rotation will eventually shake out with him, Swift and the team's other options, Johnson couldn't even begin to speculate. He knows those are coaching decisions beyond his control. 

The group will also be running behind a revamped offensive line, one that will have two new starters on the right side following the departures of Rick Wagner and Graham Glasgow, the signing of Halapoulivaati Vaitai and the selections of Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg in the draft. 

"Yeah we have had a lot of movement, but you know, with movement comes opportunity," Johnson said. "We got a lot of guys with a lot of potential, we got a lot of guys that are versatile, we got a lot of guys that we can play. At the end of the day, they move people and I run. That's all we need for the relationship to work. I'm excited, excited to get with those guys, excited to have so many options. I'm sure they're excited for us to have the talent that we have in the backfield. We've made some improvements in the run game, in my opinion, the last couple of years. We're still trying to go for top-10 in the league, and that's just the goal we're trying to get to."

The Lions finished 21st in yards per game (103.1) and 22nd in yards per carry (4.1) last season. The Lions haven't had a top-10 rushing offense since 1998, Barry Sanders' last season. The team has actually finished in the bottom-five in rushing yards a dozen times during that 22-year stretch.