Workhorse Zach Zenner plays every running back snap for Detroit Lions
Maybe Jim Bob Cooter is right. Maybe playing a running back 70 snaps a game won't work.
But the Detroit Lions nearly gave it a try anyway.
Three days after Cooter declared "it’s not a sustainable strategy to play one guy every single snap at running back," the Lions played Zach Zenner and only Zach Zenner at running back in Sunday's 31-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Zenner played 64 of a possible 66 snaps and once again carried a heavy -- and moderately successful -- workload for the Lions early before game script dictated the team abandon the run.
Last week, in a 42-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Zenner ran for 67 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns, but after helping the Lions build an early 21-14 lead, he disappeared from the game plan in the second half. Zenner had just two carries for 3 yards after halftime, while backup Dwayne Washington had six second-half carries for 22 yards.
On Sunday, Zenner had 110 yards from scrimmage, 69 on a career-high 20 rushes and 41 on four receptions. He had just four carries for 6 yards and one 6-yard catch after halftime.
"I don’t think you can play a guy 70 snaps at running back," Cooter said last week. "So we were going to mix and match guys, guys were going to play different amounts of reps. I think Zenner probably got more reps in the first half. It’s not a sustainable strategy to play one guy every single snap at running back, in my opinion. So we weren’t going to do that."
Both Lions coach Jim Caldwell and quarterback Matthew Stafford praised the role Zenner has played in adding balance to the Lions' offense without making mention of his heavy workload.
The Lions, with top two running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick on injured reserve, finished 30th in the NFL in rushing at 81.9 yards per game, worst among playoff teams.
"He ran the ball well, ran it tough," Caldwell said. "He's a workhorse. He can get his shoulders squared, he finds seams, he can catch the ball for us. He does a lot of things well."
More snap count notes:
• Asa Jackson played just seven snaps at nickel cornerback Sunday before leaving with an ankle injury. With Jackson hurt, the Lions used special-teams standout Don Carey heavily at cornerback, playing him 50 of a possible 75 defensive snaps. Crezdon Butler also played five snaps in nickel packages.
• Cornerback Darius Slay played 69 snaps on defense in his return from a hamstring injury. Cornerback Nevin Lawson, linebacker Tahir Whitehead and safety Glover Quin were the only Lions to play all 75 defensive snaps.
• On the offensive line, the Lions continued to rotate personnel with Laken Tomlinson playing 57 snaps at left guard and rookie Joe Dahl playing nine. Corey Robinson started at right tackle and played 51 snaps, while Cornelius Lucas played the other 15.
Contact Dave Birkett: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.