The Detroit Lions must rely on rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs more moving forward. Fellow ball-carrier David Montgomery suffered a quad injury in Sunday’s defeat to the Seattle Seahawks that will sideline him for multiple weeks, according to various reports. Montgomery’s absence should catapult Gibbs into a starring role.
Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has thus far relegated Gibbs to change-of-pace duties. The No. 12 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft has been limited to 14 carries across two appearances (seven carries per contest). Gibbs rushed for 17 uninspiring yards on seven carries for an output of 2.4 yards per carry in Sunday’s 37-31 thrilling overtime loss to the Seahawks.
The disappointing usage as a traditional rusher has paled in comparison to Montgomery, who has unsurprisingly worked as the Lions’ early-down, between-the-tackles runner. That’s what the Lions paid Montgomery in unrestricted free agency for. Montgomery out-carried Gibbs 16-7 despite suffering an injury that forced him to exit the contest near the conclusion of the third quarter.
Gibbs should see an uptick in carries, but how much remains a question. Lions running back Craig Reynolds earned three carries following Montgomery’s injury. Expect Reynolds to be involved via early downs while cutting into Gibbs’ potential workload. Reynolds and Gibbs actually split the workload three carries apiece following Montgomery’s injury. That’s a little concerning, although it’s worth acknowledging that five of Gibbs’ nine passing-game targets occurred after Montgomty got hurt. Gibbs should see more than a 50% share against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, but all indications are that Reynolds will remain involved.
Gibbs has added nine receptions via 11 targets to his offensive totals. His passing-game contributions haven’t yet met expectations. Gibbs is averaging just 6.3 yards per reception with a long gain of 10 yards. That hasn’t stopped the Lions from getting Gibbs involved as a pass-catcher, which is encouraging. His nine targets on Sunday were a team-high mark that represented a 26.5% target share.
It’s clear that Gibbs is still earning the coaching staff’s trust though. On Sunday, quarterback Jared Goff threw a pick-six interception in Gibbs’ direction that helped determine the outcome. Lions head coach Dan Campbell initially placed the blame on Gibbs for Goff’s miscue.
“That was more on the route [Gibbs] than it was Goff,” Campbell told reporters during post-game availability. “That’s why we work them [routes] over and over. You have to be decisive. You can’t do that to your QB.”
General manager Brad Holmes will add another back via free agency since the Lions don’t roster one on the current practice squad. Jermar Jefferson, who was with the franchise through training camp, is a straightforward option if healthy. Whoever joins Gibbs and Reynolds will serve as insurance in case of injury.
Gibbs’ career with the Lions is off to a slow-developing start through two contests. Montgomery’s week-to-week injury may provide Gibbs with a lifeline to quicken his ascension up the ranks. The final outcome ultimately rests on how Gibbs takes advantage of his new-found opportunity.