The Detroit Lions surprised a lot of people this offseason by moving on from their top two running backs after the duo produced an above-average rushing attack in 2022. Jamaal Williams set a franchise record with 17 rushing touchdowns, while D’Andre Swift added 931 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns of his own. In total, the Lions finished 11th in rushing yards and 15th in yards per carry.
But Lions' general manager believes the team improved their running back corps by adding David Montgomery in free agency and using the 12th overall pick on former Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs.
“When you look at it just systematically, I do think that we’ll be better offensively,” Holmes said during his fantastic podcast with Peter Schrager. “And that’s no knock on the contributions that those other two guys gave us because Swift is a dynamic player, and Jamaal, you know, he was a great leader for us and he did so much for us and he had a great season.”
Montgomery comes to Detroit after four decent seasons with the Chicago Bears. While his career rushing stats are nearly identical to Williams, Holmes noted how he—and Gibbs—will both be improvements as receiving backs.
“I think Montgomery and Jamaal are different backs. You know, Montgomery does a little bit more in the passing game,” Holmes said. “And being able to add Gibbs, you know, I think he’s just so dynamic as a receiver, and look, he’s a home-run hitter as a running back, I mean, that’s the easy part. But what he does as a receiver, I mean, he runs routes, I mean, like a receiver.”
In college, Gibbs displayed just how dangerous of a threat he can be as a receiver. He led all Alabama receivers in 2022 with 44 catches and was third in receiving yards (465) for Georgia Tech the previous season. His route running skills remind Holmes of one of the best running backs in the game today.
“When Christian McCaffrey came out, he was like the last guy I was like, “Holy cow, like this guy can run routes like a slot receiver, but also run it,’” Holmes said. “So you start getting reminders of some of those players. I’m not sitting here saying that Jahmyr Gibbs is those players, but, you know, just a special weapon like that. We have a lot of excitement and optimism.”
Another reason for optimism in the offense is the return of Ben Johnson. After the 37-year-old offensive coordinator was instrumental in Detroit’s fifth-ranked offense in 2022, he opted to return to the Lions even though it appeared there were head coaching opportunities available. Holmes believes expectations for Johnson are even higher in Year 2, now that he’s settled in nicely with Jared Goff.
“I think last year he showed everybody, ‘I can do this, like, I’m legit,’” Holmes said. “But having that experience under his belt, going into Year 2, having Jared [Goff] with him going into Year 2, and then all the other components that we added in free agency and the draft, that’s why I feel better about why we’d be better offensively.”