The Detroit Lions are running into a good problem this week: for the first time since Week 2 both of their top two running backs—David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs—are essentially off the injury report. Montgomery was back to a full practice this week after missing the last 2.5 games with a rib injury, while Gibbs’ hamstring issue is well in the rear-view mirror.
But the question all week has been how the Lions will utilize both backs and manage their workload. While Montgomery has been the primary back when healthy, Gibbs has really turned up his effectiveness in the past two weeks while Montgomery was sidelined, culminating in his 152 rushing-yard performance against the Las Vegas Raiders last game.
That improvement has certainly earned more trust from the coaching staff moving forward, as they continue to put more on his plate.
“We feel good about continuing to push the different schemes at him,” offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said this week. “He’s been effective inside the tackles, he’s not just a perimeter player like I think the narrative might be out there for him in the run game. And his route tree is still growing. Looking forward to getting him and Monty both their fair load of touches. They both have proven worthy of it.”
Coach Dan Campbell wouldn’t give out specifics, but he, too, said both players would get their ample looks moving forward.
“I don’t think, necessarily sitting here talking to you right now, that I see Gibbs getting 65 plays,” Campbell said. “I don’t see that, but he’s going to get his fair share, now. We know what he can be and he’s growing. So, I think it’ll be a little bit by committee and make sure we get those guys touches. Gibbs will get his touches.”
One distinct possibility—that we discussed on the most recent Midweek Mailbag podcast—is getting both Montgomery and Gibbs on the field at the same time. The Lions have only done it a handful of times this season, but Johnson made a compelling argument to do it more.
The bye week offers time for reflection, and Johnson admitted sometimes he uses it to rank the best players at his disposal.
“Usually you want to get those 11 guys out on the field together as much as possible and I think both of those guys are within those top-11 players that we have on offense,” Johnson said. “So there’s a strong argument to get them both out there together more often.”
With both Gibbs and Montgomery capable of running between the tackles and catching the ball, don’t be surprised if Detroit tries to keep defenses guessing with both weapons out there.
You’ve been warned, Los Angeles Chargers.