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2023 training camp preview: Running back

On the roster: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Jason Cabinda (fullback), Jermar Jefferson, Craig Reynolds, Greg Bell, Mohamed Ibrahim

Table inside Article
Name Games Att. Yards Avg. TD Rec. Rec. yards TD
David Montgomery^ 16 201 801 4.0 5 34 316 1
Jahmyr Gibbs* 12 151 926 6.1 7 44 444 3
Jason Cabinda 8 1 4 4.0 0 1 5 0
Jermar Jefferson 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Craig Reynolds 9 23 102 4.4 0 9 116 0
Greg Bell 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mohamed Ibrahim* 12 320 1,665 5.2 20 7 50 0

^with another team *college stats

Key losses: Jamaal Williams, D'Andre Swift, Justin Jackson

Best competition: Last couple roster spots behind Montgomery and Gibbs.

The veteran Montgomery and rookie No. 12 overall pick Gibbs are the top two in Detroit's backfield heading into 2023 and they should be an explosive one-two punch running behind one of the best offensive lines in football. The real battle come training camp will be for the No. 3 and No. 4 spots on the roster.

Cabinda is a veteran Swiss Army Knife in offensive coordinator Ben Johnson's system. He can play fullback and tight end and is a key member of Detroit's special teams' units. That kind of versatility is something Detroit's coaches covet and could land him a roster spot. The Lions had four running backs on their Week 1 roster last year. Cabinda started the season on reserve/PUP after offseason ankle surgery a year ago. He joined the team midseason and was part of their run the second half.

He's a veteran leader and a player who can wear a lot of hats. If Cabinda is part of Detroit's plans in 2023, that could leave just one spot on the initial 53 for either Jefferson, Reynolds, Bell or Ibrahim.

Of those four, Reynolds has proven himself to be a reliable runner and receiver, having a 100-yard rushing performance to his name in 2021 in a win against Arizona. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2022 on 23 carries and also caught nine passes.

But don't count out Jefferson, who looked good this spring, along with Bell and Ibrahim. Bell missed all of last season with an injury after a good start to camp. Ibrahim is a bowling ball of a runner with good hands. He would bring a different running style to Detroit's backfield.

View photos of the Detroit Lions running backs heading into training camp.

Twentyman's take: Detroit rushed for more than 2,000 yards and had 23 rushing touchdowns last season, and there's a chance their run game can be even more productive and certainly more explosive in 2023 with Montgomery and Gibbs carrying the load. The 23 touchdowns were the most among a team's running back unit in the NFL last year.

Detroit's backs were very productive last season, especially Williams, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and had 17 touchdowns. One thing missing from the offense last year was the big play in the run game. Watching the film of Detroit's offense there were too many examples of big runs that could have been with one cut or a back being one step quicker through the hole. That's what the Lions expect Montgomery and Gibbs to provide.

Gibbs is lightning in a bottle, and he's also expected to challenge Swift's 48 receptions to lead all Detroit running backs from a year ago. Gibbs might be the best receiving running back I've seen in a Lions uniform in my 15 years covering the team.

By the numbers:

4.4: Average yards per carry for Detroit running backs last season, which was the seventh highest in the league.

5.0: The Lions averaged 5.0 yards per carry when they ran over the left side last season. They averaged 4.1 yards per carry running up the middle and 4.7 yards running right.

13: Detroit rushed for 100-or-more yards in 13 contests last season, their most since producing 14 such games with 100-plus in 1997.

27: Total touchdowns (23 run & 4 rec.) by Detroit running backs in 2022. That was two better than Dallas' 25 to lead the NFL.

42: Rushes gaining negative yardage for the Lions last season, ranking 20th. Kansas City led the NFL with just 21 rushes for negative yardage.

53: Rushes for 10-plus yards for Detroit last season. That tied for 14th with Green Bay.

85.4: Detroit's goal-to-goal touchdown efficiency percentage in 2022. The Lions had a goal-to-go situation 41 times and scored a touchdown 35 times. Only Tennessee (93.8 percent) was better.

4,000 & 2,000: Detroit's offense threw for at least 4,000 yards and rushed for at least 2,000 yards for the first time in franchise history.

Quotable: "Overall if I had to put three words together (to describe the kind of room I want to have) it would smart, tough and reliable," new assistant head coach and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery said this offseason. "We got to protect the football and protect the quarterback and work our (butt) off on doing those things."

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