The Detroit Lions are in the midst of overhauling their identity. The issue is that they are currently a team without an identity and without the players to change that against the Chicago Bears
The Golden Tate trade was perplexing to many. It seemed as though the Lions were establishing themselves with three wide receivers, and a stud running back in Kerryon Johnson. Then, Tate is gone just like that.
The idea behind the trade was that they were going to rely even heavier on Kerryon Johnson. Formations with extra tight ends, fullbacks, and even Theo Riddick, who can run reverses, and routes out of the slot can be added as a more versatile version of Golden Tate.
The idea is not bad, and the timing makes sense considering Matt Patricia is a first-year coach. However, with it being his first year he may not have the personnel to implement the style he wants, and it may end up hurting his team in the short run.
Since the trade, the Lions went from 31% run to 49% run. This is what they wanted. The issue is that they have been successful on 50% of run plays with Golden Tate in the game. They are successful on just 39% without him. That is a decrease from 5.4 to 3.2. Their explosive run rate is down from 5.6% to 2.9%.
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There could be a lot of reasons behind this. One being that they invested in a rookie center and running back and while this is their future, it is not quite the present. It could have to do with playing the Vikings, Bears, and Panthers in succession.
However, it could also have to do with Golden Tate adding unnoticed value to the running game. Running out of three wide receivers sets is ideal because teams go smaller to match up with the speed at receiver. On top of that Tate is a tough blocker in the slot.
Kerryon Johnson likely had success in part because of Tate. In trading Tate, you announce to the league that you want to run the football more. Now, teams are seeing a run first team with the personnel a bit too young to dominate people without the fear of the pass.
When the Lions add extra tight ends and fullbacks, so does the defense who happens to have the advantage now.
Now, Kerryon Johnson looks to miss the game. Without Johnson, they are averaging 3.2 yards per carry on the ground. With him, that number is 5.2. Their success rate goes down from 48 to 40%, and their explosive run rate drops from 7.6% to 0.0% without Johnson. That is right; they have not had an explosive run other than Kerryon Johnson.
LeGarrette Blount is averaging under three yards per carry. The offense is even more predictable and is going to rely on Blount, who has been extremely ineffective and inefficient. The Chicago Bears could be in a good spot to defend what has turned into an anemic running attack.