On Friday, the Detroit Lions welcomed back Justin Jackson, re-signing the sixth year running back who spent the 2022 season with the team. This development was first reported by Aaron Wilson and has since been confirmed by a source familiar with Jackson. Known for his versatility, Jackson brings an added edge to the Lions’ running back and special teams units, promising intense competition in the training camp.
Jackson, originally a seventh-round pick in 2018 from Northwestern, holds the record as the school’s all-time leading rusher. He also ranks as only the ninth player in college football history to have four seasons with 1,000 yards rushing.
This move comes as the Lions bid farewell to running backs Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift during the offseason. They then brought in David Montgomery and drafted Jahmyr Gibbs to lead the backfield.
Jackson’s NFL Journey
Jackson has spent five seasons in the NFL, the majority of which were with the Los Angeles Chargers. He seemed poised for a more significant role with the Chargers, but the team ultimately decided not to retain him, opening the door for a move to Detroit.
Heading into the 2022 season, the Lions had already established their depth chart with Swift and Williams. Still, Jackson assumed an RB3 role after being promoted from the practice squad early in the season.
As the No. 3 RB on offense for the majority of the season, he accrued 170 yards on 42 carries and caught 12 passes for 101 yards.
Competition for Field Time
Jackson’s true value to the Lions last season was on special teams, and will likely be the same in 2023. He paired with Kalif Raymond to form one of the most dynamic special teams units in the league. He was the primary kick returner while Raymond handled punt return responsibilities. Jackson averaging 26.7 yards per return on 23 attempts and logging over 250 special teams snaps.
In the running back room, Jackson will face intense competition for playing time. He will compete against Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson, who are established with the Lions, and undrafted free agent rookie out of Minnesota, Mohamed Ibrahim. Jackson’s return has turned this into a four-running back race for the third spot behind David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. His ability to run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield could be his ticket to more field time, even if not in a consistent role.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Vincent Carchietta – USA TODAY Sports