Lions to roll with veteran Peterson as lead RB

  • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
  • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Adrian Peterson had more snaps, rushes and yards than the rest of the Detroit Lions running backs combined Sunday. And based on what his offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Tuesday, it looks like the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer might end up being the lead back for the club for the immediate future as well.

Peterson played 40 snaps in the Lions’ 26-23 victory against Arizona on Sunday, getting 22 carries for 75 yards along with one catch for 10 yards. That followed two weeks of a committee approach between Peterson, Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift.

“It’s not anything that those guys are or aren’t doing,” Bevell said. “We’re just trying to, again, accentuate their positives and put them in positions to be successful. You saw Swift. His plays were a little bit down. We want to keep those up and get him more involved. The one play he catches, he has a nice catch-and-run, looks fast, looks explosive.

“It’s just continuing to manage those guys and putting them in the best situations.”

Those situations come with Peterson atop the depth chart. Detroit signed Peterson after he was released by Washington on Sept. 4. He said he had a opportunities to go to a couple of teams in the league, but he chose the Lions because of an opportunity to play again with Bevell, who was his offensive coordinator at the start of his career in Minnesota.

So far, Peterson has averaged 4.9 yards per carry (43 attempts, 209 yards). Johnson has averaged 3.4 yards (18 attempts, 62 yards), while rookie Swift is averaging 2.5 yards (8 attempts, 20 yards).

Bevell did praise Johnson on Sunday, calling him the “player of the game” due to his pass protection pickup and the small nuances that led to Jesse James’ touchdown reception. But it appears Johnson, who has been Detroit’s lead back when healthy the past two seasons, might not touch the ball as much as he has in the past.

The question now might be whether or not the Lions have to manage Peterson’s workload. He’s already played in 167 career games, carried the ball 3,079 times for 14,425 rushing yards. Plus, he’s at an age where most running backs are retired or playing a much less significant role.

“I’ve told you, this guy is a freak of nature now. I don’t know where that wall is or where he’s going to hit it. The guy is always asking for more,” Bevell said. “He is in great shape. He takes care of his body. He does all those little things to set himself up for that success.

“I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but he wants [the ball], we want him to have it and we’ll just keep continuing to go there and spell him with Kerryon, spell him with Swift and kind of go from there.”

Running backs coach Kyle Caskey said he and Peterson have an open line of communication about his reps and if he needs rest. Caskey said any management, for now, is “a during the week thing,” and on game day they are going to play the game.

“He’ll tell me,” Caskey said. “That’s your answer right there. He’ll tell me when he’s had enough or when he needs a break. He’s communicated well with me since he’s been here. I don’t think it’s anything that I personally need to do to watch him.

“He will tell when he’s feeling whatever you want to call it. He is that way. He’s not scared to tell me anything, so it’s really good. It’s a really good coach-player relationship we have with everything.”

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