SEIDEL: Detroit Lions’ lack of depth evident in injuries

When Bob Quinn became Detroit Lions general manager, he looked at the roster in astonishment.

“Are you serious? Um, where are the rest of your players?”

Then, he went into a deep panic and started crying. “Take me back to New England!”

At least that’s how I imagine it.

In reality, at his introductory news conference, Quinn was a little bit more diplomatic. “I think one of the deficiencies is the overall depth,” he said.

Which is the nice way of saying there is some talent here, just not enough.

The lack of depth, more than anything, is the big problem facing the Lions after a rash of injuries on defense that includes DeAndre Levy (quad), Kyle Van Noy (calf), Antwione Williams (thigh) and Ziggy Ansah (ankle).

That’s a frightening list.

To make it worse, running back Ameer Abdullah was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, which is a serious blow to the running game.

“Guys have to step up and play,” coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday, refusing to play the woe-is-me card. “Somebody has to take a few more carries than they would have ordinarily, and obviously I think we have a number of guys that can do that for us.”

The Lions will try to replace Abdullah by spreading the ball to three backs, all with different skill sets.

Theo Riddick becomes the featured back. Riddick is a fantastic talent, catching passes out of the backfield, carrying the ball in the open field and making people miss. But he never has been a workhorse in the NFL.

On Sunday, he carried 11 times for 37 yards, which is the first time he has rushed more than seven times in an NFL game.

It would be a mistake to give all the carries to Riddick. He’s not that type of back. He has proved to be at his best when used sparingly.

“Obviously, Theo (Riddick) is the veteran guy back there, the most productive guy that we’ve got back there at this particular point in time,” Caldwell said. “So, yeah, he’s the lead guy, but the fact of the matter is, it’ll be some other guys carrying the ball as well. It just depends on what type of attack we decide to use.”

Which brings us to Dwayne Washington.

Quinn drafted Washington in the seventh round, trying to add depth at running back, taking a chance on a guy who carried the ball only 47 times as a senior at Washington.

Washington has size, power, explosion, strength and speed.

“He’s a smart kid, obviously a big, physical kid,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Probably our biggest back, does a really nice job in the run game. Like you said, he’s a young kid, he’s obviously still learning the game. Everything we’ve given him he’s done a nice job of soaking up, taking to heart and going.”

This becomes a huge opportunity for Washington, who showed all kinds of promise during the exhibition season, gaining 104 yards on 18 carries, although more than half of that came on a 58-yard run. He’s young and inexperienced. Will he be able to take a bigger role? Can he do all the little things, like pass protect and make the right decisions?

“He’s young, got a ways to go, but is a talented football player,” Stafford said.

Then, there’s Zack Zenner — Mr. North and South from South Dakota.

“I feel like one of my strengths is getting north and south, making the vertical cuts,” Zenner said.

I asked Zenner about Washington, about how he makes people miss, and Zenner admitted he isn’t exactly sure how Washington does it. “I’m still getting a feel for how he’s making these people miss,” Zenner said. “But they are certainly slipping off him. He’s an explosive guy, has good cuts.”

The Lions on Sunday play at Green Bay, which features the top-ranked defense against the run, allowing an average of 1.6 yards per carry.

So, there will be even more pressure on the young offensive line.

It all adds up to something that sounds a bit scary: a young line facing the top defense against the run without its best running back, while an injury-depleted defense is trying to contain Green Bay, even if the Packers have been struggling offensively.

Translation: Stafford better have a great day throwing the ball.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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