NFC North Q&A: Has the Lions run game improved enough to take pressure off Matthew Stafford?

The Detroit Lions finished 30th in the NFL last season with 89.9 rushing yards per game as injuries took a huge toll. But if Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy, will it be enough to balance the offense?

Rob Demovsky, ESPN's Green Bay Packers reporter: In short, no, unless the return of Abdullah from the foot injury that ruined his 2016 season is a game-changer or Matt Asiata suddenly becomes something more than just the complementary piece he was in Minnesota. Otherwise, it looks a lot like the status quo for the Lions' offense, which will once again rely heavily on quarterback Matthew Stafford. That's not a bad thing given his ability to get on a hot streak as he showed last season. The good news is he has an upgraded offensive line led by former Packers Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang to protect him.

Jeff Dickerson, ESPN's Chicago Bears reporter: I don't think so. I expect Stafford to carry the offense again in 2017. Detroit's backfield should be better if Abdullah can stay healthy, but it's not as if Abdullah is a sure thing. He carried the ball only 18 times last year. The rest of the running backs, like Abdullah, are young. Unless Abdullah runs wild, I can't see this group taking much pressure off Stafford.

Ben Goessling, ESPN's Minnesota Vikings reporter: Can I go with "maybe"? Rick Wagner and Lang will certainly help in that regard (though Lang's health is a concern), and the Lions have a solid complement of running backs with Abdullah and Riddick leading the group. It should be at least functional, which is a big improvement for a team that ranked 30th in the league last year, and Abdullah has room to grow in his third season after missing most of last year because of injury. But I still think the Lions' fortunes will hinge on what Stafford does for them, and a quarterback who has thrown the ball at least 592 times in each of the past six seasons probably is still going to be asked to sling it quite a bit. The injury to Taylor Decker is also a big concern for the Lions, so while the running game should improve, the Lions' ability to protect Stafford and let him go to work will probably determine how good their offense can be.