Amid the blowout that was the Detroit Lions versus Denver Broncos, Craig Reynolds stood out for the right reasons.
Despite the injury to D’Andre Swift, the Lions running game was still in good hands heading into the week. Jamaal Williams had proven himself to be a solid free agent addition, toting the rock with efficiency all season. However, news struck the Lions late in the week: Williams was placed on the COVID reserve. Suddenly, the Lions’ active roster was down to a seventh-round rookie—who was nursing an ankle injury and an illness—and a safety-turned-running back. With the Lions also missing their first- and second-string centers, there was skepticism about how well the Lions would run the football on Sunday.
Enter Craig Reynolds.
Called up from the practice squad as a COVID elevation, Reynolds had minimal expectations heading into Week 14. He shined in preseason, going from a mid-week signing to the Lions’ best back in the three exhibition games. However, it was not enough to secure a roster spot. Despite the promotion for Reynolds, it seemed like Jermar Jefferson and Godwin Igwebuike would handle the lion’s share of the carries. Reynolds would get a carry or two, and maybe a few targets as a pass catching running back.
Instead, Reynolds was the Lions’ best back by a wide margin. Though he only carried the ball 11 times—mainly due to a negative game script—he turned them into 83 yards. Even if you use the patented Jeremy Reisman method of removing his longest carry, Reynolds notched 10 carries for 48 yards. The numbers aren’t out-of-this-world, nor did he accumulate many yards as a receiver, but the Lions’ offense was at its best with him in the backfield.
Jefferson, perhaps not fully healthy, played just three snaps on offense. Igwebuike, meanwhile, cooled off in his most extensive outing of the season. Eight carries for 25 yards is not ideal, but it was his fumble that proved most costly. He came very close to fumbling again when the Lions were in the red zone, but he was just out of bounds. While this doesn’t get recorded in the stat sheet, coaches will take note of it.
Credit must be given to the offensive line too. As usual, when a running back is running wild, the offensive line is usually responsible. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Jonah Jackson were once again very effective with their run blocking. Jackson and a pulling Vaitai opened up a nice hole for Reynolds on his 35-yarder, but Reynolds also made a few defenders miss. All together, that play was a great effort from the offense:
.@13_CJR got us going on that last drive #DETvsDEN | : FOX pic.twitter.com/YVbioDmuaN— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 12, 2021
However, did Reynolds do enough in his first outing of the regular season to earn more snaps in the weeks to come?
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Should Craig Reynolds become the Lions’ RB3?
My answer: I think so, but the Lions might have to do some roster shuffling. Reynolds has done nothing but impress since joining the Lions, and I would feel confident having him as the top backup behind Swift and Williams. Reynolds can spell Swift as a pass catcher too, providing additional value.
Since the Lions promoted Reynolds as a COVID replacement, he can still be elevated twice for the remainder of the season. Therefore, the Lions shouldn’t be in a rush to promote him to the active roster. Another injury may pop up and free a roster spot without having to waive anyone—for example, Jerry Jacobs is likely to join the Injured Reserve.
If the Lions keep Reynolds on the practice squad, the Lions will have to alter their weekly protections. For Week 14, the Lions protected guard Parker Ehinger, defensive lineman Bruce Hector, tight end Shane Zylstra, and kicker Aldrick Rosas. With Riley Patterson kicking well, the Lions might view Rosas as expendable. Alternatively, Evan Brown returning from the COVID reserve could mean offensive line depth isn’t as critical.
If the Lions decide to promote him to the active roster, they will have to make a tough decision with Igwebuike and Jefferson. Do you keep five backs on the roster? Do you waive Igwebuike, your kickoff returner and a weekly contributor? With the season out of reach, do you put Swift or Jefferson on the Injured Reserve? I think this option is the safest outcome, but it would also mean shutting down your top back or a promising young rookie, neither of which are great outcomes. There’s a chance Igwebuike or Jefferson could clear waivers, but it seems like an unnecessary risk.
It’s just one game, so I don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction, but I think Reynolds deserves a larger role.
Should Craig Reynolds become the Lions’ RB3?
This poll is closed