Lions charge into season with green backfield

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Here's an odd twist to the Detroit Lions' personnel maneuverings this week: The Lions will debut a new running game with a pretty inexperienced backfield Sunday at Atlanta.

Their starting tailback will be rookie Kevin Smith. The primary backup will be Rudi Johnson, who signed with the team Monday and missed the entire preseason with Cincinnati because of a hamstring injury. The No. 3 running back is rookie Marcus Thomas, whom the Lions were awarded on waivers Sunday from San Diego.

Oh, and their starting fullback is rookie Jerome Felton.

Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto told reporters in Detroit that both Johnson and Thomas know enough plays to contribute if needed. Johnson's health was in question for much of the summer with the Bengals, but Colletto said Johnson has looked decent in practice.

"He's going to play," Colletto said. "How much he'll play Sunday, I don't know. But he can play. "I don't think we can ask Kevin to carry the load all day."