The Detroit Lions running back situation is looking a little too similar to the Spinal Tap drummer role. Durability just isn’t in the script for the Lions RBs or the famous mockumentary where the drummers were lucky to make it through one gig.
Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers was the latest tour date where a Lions RB couldn’t finish the gig. David Montgomery left the game with a rib injury, one that could keep him out for a couple of weeks, according to head coach Dan Campbell.
The Lions were already without rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, who was inactive with a hamstring injury for the second straight game. Gibbs’ fill-in in Week 5, Zonovan Knight, was lost for the season with a shoulder injury suffered on his very first touch of that game against the Panthers. Detroit previously lost Mohamed Ibrahim and Jermar Jefferson to injuries during the preseason, too.
It sounds like Gibbs will be back for the Lions’ Week 7 trip to Baltimore, but the depth remains a question. While there are some free-agent options, Campbell hinted that the solution might already be on the roster. When asked about the depth around the two healthy backs, Craig Reynolds and Devine Ozigbo (promoted from the practice squad in Week 6), Campbell offered an alternate path,
“Yeah, and I think if not, we’ve got other guys that we can use on the roster at that position; probably in the receiver room is where that could come from. So, we’ll do what we need to do to make it through this if that’s the case and all we have is those two, but I trust those two to be able to handle what we need to handle.”
Using one of the wide receivers in a limited RB role isn’t a typical solution. In fact, it usually works the other way around–a depth RB will fill in for an injured WR in a pinch. The Lions did run one rep with wideout Kalif Raymond at RB, an inside run where the speedy Raymond gained three yards.
Raymond would be the most logical candidate from the receiver room to temporarily fill in at running back. His WR role has diminished with Jameson Williams returning to action. Raymond, all 160 pounds of him at the time, did see a few reps at RB during his college days at Holy Cross, and he’s proven to be a good runner as the Lions’ primary return specialist over the last three seasons.
If Campbell was digging deeper into the Lions practice squad, Maurice Alexander presents another option. Alexander was recruited to Florida International as an option quarterback. He didn’t switch to full-time wide receiver until his third season and even had a game in 2016 where he ran for 62 yards and a touchdown.