Bills

Tion Green breaks out against Bills, but will Lions carry 5 running backs?

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — As an undrafted rookie who doesn’t know where he’ll be living one week to the next, Tion Green doesn’t have a house in Detroit. He doesn’t have an apartment.

The running back has been living out of the hotel the Detroit Lions use during training camp, like so many other players who face uncertain futures heading into Saturday’s cuts. But living out of a hotel gets old after a while, so he’s bounced between staying at the other running backs’ houses.

He says Theo Riddick’s place has become like a second home to him.

“I live there. I watch his TV,” Green said with a laugh after Thursday night’s 27-17 loss against Buffalo in the preseason finale. “I leave his cable on all night, and he screams at me when he comes in the morning. He has a bed down there. That’s my pops now. 

“I’m the only rookie running back, so they’ll take turns getting me out of the house. Theo’s got the nicest crib. Theo has like that college-room theme. Ameer (Abdullah) has the blues theme, like jazz music. And then Zach Zenner has like the cozy home theme.”

It’s clear how much Green is liked in the running back room. Now the big question is whether there’s room in there for him.

At the very least, he made his last impression the best one.

The undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati exploded for a game-high 150 yards of total offense in Thursday’s loss against the Bills, including taking a Brad Kaaya screen pass to the house from 74 yards out.

“It’s any kids dream,” Green said. “You grow up playing football your whole life, and it’s an opportunity of a lifetime (to be here). It’s hard to take all in, because a lot of people see the run, but for me, it was just a blur. I just caught the ball and I just remember one cut, another cut, and just saying to myself, ‘Pick my knees up and keep going’ Especially after that 35-yard run, when I got walked down. I just wanted to get into the end zone and create a spark my team.”

Green was the biggest spark in a game that otherwise lacked them. He led Detroit in both rushing (eight carries for 63 yards) and receiving (four catches for 87 yards), and scored one of the club’s two touchdowns.

And that’s saying nothing of his work on special teams, where he was the club’s leading tackler in the preseason until Charles Washington surpassed him in the finale. Multiple times he was the first man to reach the returner on punt coverage.

Now the Lions have to consider whether they have room for a fifth tailback behind Abdullah, Riddick, Zenner and Dwayne Washington, all of whom sat against Buffalo with their roster spots determined.

“There’s a lot of good players, a lot of different spots we’re going to have to look at tomorrow,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “We’re deeper than we’ve ever been in a number of different places — much, much deeper — so it’s going to make it tough.”

Cornerback is one of those positions, where Detroit has added D.J. Hayden, Jamal Agnew and Teez Tabor to a mix that includes returning starters in Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs. Johnson Bademosi, a solid backup who stars on special teams, is there too.

Then again, that’s seven cornerbacks, which is almost unheard of. Detroit is either going to have to let a good player go there, or make tough decisions elsewhere.

But at other positions, bubble players failed to make an impact against the Bills. At receiver, Detroit seems likely to carry a fifth receiver but both candidates flopped Thursday night. Jace Billingsley finished with two catches for 2 yards and fumbled a kick return, while Jared Abbrederis lost a fumble on his only catch and didn’t do anything notable on kick or punt return.

At defensive end, Alex Barrett was flagged twice for lining up in the neutral zone, while he and Jeremiah Valoaga combined for zero sacks and zero tackles in  first half. Pat O’Connor, their competition, was no better.

In that way, Green’s standout performance stood out among so many other bubble players who bungled their finaly opportunity to impress coaches and the front office.

“He’s been good and solid for us, he really has,” Caldwell said. “I think he’s coming along.”

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