Detroit Lions could lean on Zach Zenner in Thanksgiving game vs. Bears

Zenner had 88 carries in 2016

With Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson out for the Thanksgiving game against the Chicago Bears, look for Zach Zenner to possibly get more involved in the offense.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter doesn’t have much choice. Theo Riddick could get the ball more often. He’s had nine carries for 30 yards so far, but is used more often in the passing game (41 catches). Veteran LeGarrette Blount is a short yardage back who can’t carry the load in place of Johnson.

Zenner, who was re-signed two weeks ago, has fresh legs and has played mostly on special teams in the last two games.

Coach Matt Patricia wouldn’t say which running back they will lean on but praised Zenner especially for recovering the onside kick late in Sunday’s win over the Panthers.

“He’s done a great job since he’s been back. He’s done a lot out at practice that we feel very confident with him out there. He’s done a lot on special teams. (He) obviously made a huge play (Sunday). That’s a very difficult play, I don’t think underestimate or understate the hands teams team, last kick, all the space,’’ Patricia said. “They really did a good job with (formatting) that play and created a lot of space for him to have to cover and think he did a great job of staying calm and patient in that situation and made a really good play.

“He’s done a good job and that’s part of the reason why some of the practices that we have are structured the way they are so those guys are out there and we’re getting a good look at them from that standpoint of are they ready to go and are they not in any situation that may come up. I think he’s a great example of a guy that’s just — he’s such a professional. He’s just always ready to go. He’s done a good job,’’ Patricia added.

Zenner had one carry on the last play in the loss to the Bears two weeks ago, gaining 12 yards. And in Sunday’s win over the Panthers, he played 18 snaps on special teams and got in on offense late with Johnson out but didn’t carry the ball.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Zenner, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, saw the most work in the 2016 season when Ameer Abdullah was lost in the second game and Theo Riddick was in and out with various injuries. In that season Zenner had 88 carries for 334 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and scored four touchdowns. Cooter knows what Zenner can do and Zenner knows the offense.


Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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