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Jahmyr Gibbs Lions

Can Jahmyr Gibbs Be Lions’ Downfield Threat?

  • Justin Melo
  • September 5, 2023
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Detroit Lions rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs will make his NFL regular-season debut against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday. The Lions are expected to creatively utilize Gibbs’ dual-threat skill set. There have been whispers that Gibbs may even serve as the Lions’ downfield receiving threat.

Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was recently asked about the team’s ability to stretch the field vertically while sophomore wide receiver Jameson Williams serves a suspension. Johnson noted that vertical threats don’t necessarily have to be receivers. Johnson was almost certainly referring to Gibbs.

“We might use Gibbs in some ways that people don’t quite think we might,” Johnson recently added to his glowing review of Gibbs.

The No. 12 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, Gibbs is an outstanding receiver. The former Alabama standout has natural hands and is a terrific route runner. Johnson, who oversaw an explosive Lions offense that scored a fifth-ranked 26.6 points per game last season, is fully aware of Gibbs’ capabilities.

Gibbs scarcely played during the preseason but did record one reception for an explosive 18-yard gain. Gibbs made a ton of catches down the field throughout training camp. Johnson possesses one of the league’s most creative offensive minds and continues to indicate that Gibbs will be used in unconventional ways when compared to other pass-catching backs around the league. That opens up a wide range of possibilities.

Gibbs can catch passes coming out of the backfield as a check-down option for quarterback Jared Goff. He’s also capable of lining up in the slot and testing defenders vertically. Gibbs, who may even see targets out wide from empty looks, is a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers and safeties. He’ll be a terrific receiving compliment to Amon-Ra St. Brown and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta.

The Dalton, Georgia native transferred to Alabama from Georgia Tech ahead of the 2022 college football campaign to display his abilities on a bigger stage. Gibbs amassed career highs in receptions (44), receiving yards (444) receiving touchdowns (3) at Alabama. In two previous years at Georgia Tech, Gibbs accounted for 60 receptions, 773 receiving yards, and five touchdowns as a receiver.

The Lions also have David Montgomery at running back after signing the former Chicago Bear to a three-year contract worth $18 million in unrestricted free agency. Montgomery’s hefty annual price tag of $6 million indicates he’ll be heavily involved. Montgomery is a fine pass-catcher in his own right but is also better-suited to serve as Detroit’s primary early-down, between-the-tackles, and short-yardage rusher than Gibbs is. Montgomery’s presence should free up Gibbs to take on even more passing-game work, which opens up Johnson’s entire playbook.

The aforementioned Williams suspension should have an impact on Gibbs’ usage. Williams is ineligible to play in Detroit’s first six games due to violating the NFL’s gambling policy. A sophomore, Williams was expected to serve as the Lions’ big-play receiver. Those plans have been placed on hold, and Gibbs is now their most capable candidate to stretch opposing secondaries.

The sky’s the limit for Gibbs’ potential in Detroit. Johnson is saying all the right things in relation to Gibbs’ expected usage. Jahmyr Gibbs is capable of serving as a downfield threat in this Lions offense.

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Justin Melo