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Zach Zenner earning trust, potentially more carries, with Lions

"We're real confident in his ability to read and run," offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said about Zach Zenner. “You've heard nothing but superlatives about the kid. So, we like him." Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Zach Zenner didn’t get much work Monday night, but the Detroit Lions offered a little bit of a clue about his future late against the Seahawks.

On Detroit’s final drive, needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win, the Lions went with their bigger running back to try to grind out some yards. He picked up 6 yards on his first carry. He picked up 3 yards on his second carry.

On each of them, he had 2 yards after contact, continuing positive momentum on both plays. They were also the last two plays before the final Detroit offensive play – the Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson pass that led to the fumble, the intentional bat and everything that happened after.

“They are the type of play that we’re real confident in his ability to read and run,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “And look it, I think, from me anyway, you’ve heard nothing but superlatives about the kid. So, we like him.”

The Lions apparently like him enough to potentially give him some carries even when Joique Bell returns from his ankle injury. Lombardi said Thursday that Zenner has put himself in a position for that.

It might not be something the Lions have to worry about this week, though, as Bell missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, potentially meaning he’ll miss his second straight game Sunday against Arizona.

This is all a change from the past, when Zenner had two carries in the season opener against San Diego and then didn’t touch the ball against Minnesota or Denver.

“It’s good to be trusted. It’s better than the opposite, for sure,” Zenner said. “At the same time, I got to make the most of my opportunities so that they can continue to trust me.”

That trust began in the preseason, when he essentially forced his way onto the team by leading the NFL in rushing – although a lot of that work came late in games and not against starters. But he’s slowly earning more trust in the regular season now.

That showed during those two carries late Monday night, and in how Lombardi talks about him.

While he hasn’t had a breakout run or a breakout game yet – the Lions haven’t had much of that at all as the NFL’s worst rushing offense – if he does start to put more runs together, he could find himself with a larger role no matter what other running backs are healthy on the roster.

From a fantasy perspective: Zenner is not worth playing now, although if you’re desperate he could pick up some carries this week and would be the potential goal-line or grind-it-out back. However, if you have a deep bench or room on your bench, he could be worth stashing. Depending what happens with Bell or how he performs over the next few weeks, he could be in line for more carries as the season continues.