The Detroit Lions have been searching for a solid run game for basically half of my life. After Barry Sanders’ surprise retirement in 1999, the Lions have brought in group after group in order to try and establish the run. For a long time it seemed like the only group that ever worked out was Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.
That was until last season when Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift put up the 11th most rushing yards and third most rushing touchdowns in the league. The Lions run game was officially back. Naturally, the Lions next move was to completely replace that group.
Williams is now with the Saints and Swift is now with the Eagles. The Lions have replaced them with a younger and more athletic group in David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. We still have to see it, but this pairing should offer a lot more to the Lions going forward.
There are still a couple of holdover from the group left and that’s Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson. Reynolds, a fan favorite that came in during the 2021 season who backed up his neat story with some impressive performances late in the season. Unfortunately Reynolds was not able follow up his promising 2021 season . He wound up getting injured and missing the back half of the season.
Jefferson, on the other hand, has yet to make much of an impact at all. He played in just 36 snaps his rookie season, and he rode the practice squad for all of 2022. He enters 2023 with his roster spot very much in question.
The Lions made a move after the draft that makes both Reynolds’ and Jefferson’s spots even more unsafe. The Lions were able to pick up Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim as an undrafted free agent. Immediately, this felt like a steal for the Lions.
Ibrahim’s draft stock make have tanked a bit because of the torn Achilles in 2021 or maybe it’s because the Gophers used Ibrahim a lot. For example, Ibrahim ran the ball 320 times in 2022. Jahmyr Gibbs ran the ball 151 times. Ibrahim has a lot of carries in him and that usage might make teams feel he has more of chance to get injured or that his NFL career could be shortened due to overuse. That’s why a spot like Detroit makes a lot of sense for Ibrahim. He’s not going to have to deal with a lot of carries because he has two guys in front of him.
Even though he has a lot of miles on him and was coming off a serious injury, that didn’t slow him down in 2022. He ran for 1.665 yards and 20 touchdowns last year. That’s a Minnesota single-season record. The reason he did that is because this guy can flat out move and he can flat out move through you.
“If you could take a video of what is #Gophers football take that one.”— GopherHole.com (@GopherHole) September 17, 2022
PJ Fleck on Mohamed Ibrahim’s remarkable TD run. pic.twitter.com/mq0DW8yrh5
It’s stuff like this that really gives Ibrahim his best shot to make the Lions roster. He can do the stuff that Montgomery and Gibbs don’t really do. Gibbs is likely to be more of pass catcher or a guy that will punish teams in open space. Montgomery can be a three-down back in the middle parts of the field. This leaves a perfect spot for Ibrahim to work in the red zone or on short-yardage situations when you need a guy that can pummel his way for extra yards.
But Ibrahim isn’t just a player who will turn a 1-yard gain into a 5-yard gain. He has the ability to bust out a long run every now and again. Take this impressive run against Ohio State:
MOHAMED IBRAHIM— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 3, 2021
NEEDED 1, GOT 50
With the layout of the running back corps, you shouldn’t expect to Ibrahim to have much opportunity to do stuff like this. Then again, the Lions have a lot of trouble with injuries. If an unfortunate situation where they may have to have someone fill in, Ibrahim is a guy who has proven he can take on a massive role.
I’m not saying that Craig Reynolds is for sure out. The Lions entered the 2022 season carrying four running backs. They could very well do it again in 2023. Additionally, Reynolds brings a lot more to the crew in terms of special teams. Ibrahim will have to prove that he’s both willing and capable to take a sizable special teams role—something he only did in a very minor role early in his Minnesota career.
We’re going to see soon enough how things shake out, but as of right now, the Lions got a steal of a player in Ibrahim and he can be a part of this team’s offense immediately.