Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell knows what a dynamic two-headed backfield can provide for a team. During Campbell’s tenure as an assistant coach in New Orleans, the Saints boasted one of the most dominant backfields in the NFL.
In 2017, Campbell saw Mark Ingram and a rookie Alvin Kamara rush for a combined 1,852 yards and 20 touchdowns. The duo added another 1,242 yards and five touchdowns receiving. In two seasons together, Kamara and Ingram were critical in leading the Saints to a 24-8 record and an appearance in the NFC Championship game in 2018.
The 2022 Lions boasted a solid backfield of their own. Jamaal Williams led the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 17. He and D’Andre Swift combined for 2,070 total scrimmage yards and 25 touchdowns.
The Detroit Lions rebuilt backfield for 2023
This offseason, the Lions blew up their 2022 backfield. Williams left for the Saints in free agency, and Swift was dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles during draft weekend. In their place, Lions GM Brad Holmes has upgraded the backfield through free agency and the draft.
The team signed former Chicago Bear David Montgomery to a three-year $18 million contract. The former 1,000-yard rusher can play as a workhorse in the backfield. The Iowa State product will handle the bulk of rushing duties for Detroit and will be the go-to guy in short-yardage situations.
After trading down to the 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft, Holmes and the Lions’ front office selected Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs. The selection has fans and analysts alike split. Some view the selection of Gibbs at 12 as a reach. Holmes stated he was the highest-rated player left on Detroit’s board, giving others more faith in the pick.
No matter how people view the Gibbs selection, there is no doubt he will be a productive player at the professional level. Just as Ingram and Kamara formed one of the league’s best running back duos in 2017, Montgomery and Gibbs can combine to form one of the NFL’s most lethal backfields.
What Jahmyr Gibbs brings to the Detroit Lions
Montgomery fills the role Ingram played in New Orleans. He is a workhorse and power back. Gibbs is the Kamary-type. He plays with more finesse.
After transferring from Georgia Tech to Alabama, Gibbs produced in his lone season with the Crimson Tide. He posted 926 rushing yards, 444 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns.
Gibbs’ movement ability is unmatched by most of the running backs in the 2023 class. Bijan Robinson overshadowed the Alabama product throughout much of the draft process, but Gibbs showed proven first-round caliber skills. He offers good agility, speed and sudden change of direction. While his size at 5-9, 199 pounds may limit him from being an every-down back, his skillset allows Detroit to make him a featured aspect of its passing game.
He eludes tacklers in open space, and he has the wiggle to navigate his way through traffic. He has the speed and crisp route running to create separation from defenders in coverage. Whether he is lining up out of the backfield, in the slot or as a motion man, Gibbs will provide a dynamic pass catcher for Lions’ quarterback Jared Goff. His speed and ability as a playmaker make Gibbs a solid option in the return game as well.
He can be indecisive in attacking gaps and lacks the power to fight through contact. Those are the traits Montgomery provides. Gibbs is a stretch-the-field kind of back. He excels in running in plays outside the tackles. Gibbs is not Kamara, not right now at least. However, his upside is near that of what Kamara provides New Orleans.
The Detroit Lions introduce Jahmyr Gibbs
Gibbs is one of the many people who were surprised he went as early as 12th overall.
“I didn’t know I would get picked as high as I did because running backs don’t get picked as high in this new age and new era of the NFL draft,” he said during his introductory press conference. “But it was pretty shocking to me.”
Gibbs is confident he will play a productive role wherever the Lions put him on the field.
“(I’m) going to bring a lot running the ball and returning kicks, catching the ball. (I) Just feel like whatever spot they want me at I think I’ll excel and just add more to the team, help us win more,” he said.
Gibbs added he is grateful to be in Detroit.
The Lions have aspirations to make a deep playoff run this upcoming season. A six-game suspension to receiver Jameson Williams will make Gibbs’ early contributions in the receiving game even more critical. Paired with Montgomery, Gibbs and Detroit’s backfield could play a critical role in the Lions making noise in the postseason.
For more from the author, Thomas Chavez, check him out on Twitter here: @tlchavez43
Featured Image Credit: © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK
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