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Lions looking to get Gibbs more work in the passing game

Jahmyr Gibbs certainly made his mark on the NFL as a rookie last season, rushing for 945 yards (5.2 avg.) and 10 touchdowns to go along with 52 receptions for 316 yards and another score, totaling 1,261 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns.

He was third in scrimmage yards among all rookies, second in rushing yards and tops among all first-year players in touchdowns. He was second among all NFL running backs with 10 rushes of 20-plus yards.

Lions assistant head coach and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery expects even more production from Gibbs in his second season, especially when it comes to the passing game.

"What we need him to do from a passing game standpoint is go to that next level," Montgomery said. "I do think there's a certain difference between route running from the backfield and being a really, really sufficient, and efficient check-down runner vs. what it is to be a great route runner, a guy that can run all types of choice (routes).

"We know we've seen him do those things, but now can you go into the slot and do a little bit more down the field? Some intermediate stuff, can we continue to grow him there? And that's what we're trying to do."

That will be a fun part of Gibbs' game to watch develop. A soft tissue injury forced Gibbs to miss the open OTAs and mandatory minicamp practices this spring, but he's expected to be ready to go come the start of training camp.

Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (164) and tight end Sam LaPorta (120) got the bulk of the targets in the passing game last season. Gibbs got the third most targets with 71, and finished third on the team in receptions, but he was only sixth in yards behind St. Brown, LaPorta, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond and Jameson Williams. Reynolds' departure in free agency should open up more targets in the passing game for others.

"It's all over the tape," Montgomery said. "I think that when you have guys that are super talented, that going from good to great is probably the hardest thing you have to do, and what we're doing, a lot of people think about when you get to that level, 'Man, I've done a good job.'

"But right now, they all feel like, 'Man, we weren't good enough,' and that's the way that we're going to fight complacency but it's also the way that we're going to take the next step and that is what we expect. We do need to see another step."

Montgomery said part of that step when it comes to Gibbs is consistency over the course of 17 games.

View photos from Day 3 of Detroit Lions minicamp on Thursday, June 6, 2024 in Allen Park, Mich.

Veteran running back David Montgomery had 30 more carries than Gibbs and led the Lions with 1,015 yards rushing, playing one fewer game than Gibbs last season. Montgomery and Gibbs form one of the top running back duos in the NFL and they'll mostly split carries in the backfield again this season.

Gibbs' potential to be a much bigger part of the passing game, and not just as a drop off or short option route receiver, could be huge for both him and the Lions' passing game. Gibbs is a terrific open field runner and the Lions will continue to come up with ways to get him in space.

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