Injury to veteran RB gives Lions rookie big opportunity

Yardbarker

Heading into the 2023 season, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell said he planned on easing rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs into NFL action. 

But now, veteran RB David Montgomery reportedly will need “a couple of weeks,” to heal from a quad injury picked up in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to Seattle, per Adam Schefter. 

With that, it appears the “easing into action” is over for Gibbs. 

By the time Montgomery returns, Gibbs, the 12th overall pick in 2023, should have a stranglehold on the role of Lions’ top running back. 

Despite limited opportunities so far, he’s looked good as both a runner and receiver.  

In Detroit’s Week 1 upset over the Kansas City Chiefs, he led all the NFL in forced missed tackles with seven on just nine touches, per USA Today. While accumulating just 17 yards on seven carries on Sunday, he racked up 30 total yards on seven chances after Montgomery’s exit, including an eight-yard run on a key third-and-seven. 

Campbell told the media that it would likely be a running back committee if Montgomery does end up missing time, but he did acknowledge the absence would be a chance for his first-round draft pick to earn more carries.

“Certainly Gibbs is going to get more opportunities,” Campbell said after noting Montgomery is considered day-to-day. “We need him to grow, and he will.”

Craig Reynolds will compete with Gibbs for carries, but quarterback Jared Goff also seems comfortable with throwing Gibbs the ball, targeting him nine times and connecting seven. That’s good for a 36 percent target-per-route-run rate, behind only rookie sensation Puka Nacua and Miami superstar Tyreek Hill.

While Montgomery has provided a steady presence as a rusher in his first two games as a Lion (141 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries), Gibbs’ ceiling as an explosive playmaker is simply higher than Montgomery’s. 

With winnable games coming up against Atlanta and Carolina sandwiched around a date with the Packers in Green Bay, this is an important stretch for the Lions who are hoping to win their first division title since 1993. In order to do so, Goff needs to get the ball into the hands of his best players early and often. 

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