Detroit Lions running backs and quarterbacks depth, pre-camp
Detroit Lions running backs
Last year this group got its first star-potential runner since Barry Sanders when it drafted D’Andre Swift in the 2nd Round of the 2020 draft. Stunted a bit by the use of Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Swift still managed 521 yards rushing with 8 touchdowns and an additional 357 yards receiving with 2 more scores on 46 receptions.
Gone is Peterson but the Lions addressed the position with a more productive, familiar foe, Jamaal Williams, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. Williams is a fairly accomplished runner in his own right, going over 500 yards last year, as well. The two should form the best duo of Lions runners since Dexter Bussey and Billy Sims if you can remember that far back.
The backfield has shifted its needs to one-cut runners, who read their blocking, choose their gap and go for the new Lynn scheme. Jermar Jefferson was drafted in Round 7 to bolster depth but has an uphill climb to make the roster.
Detroit Lions running back candidates:
D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Jermar Jefferson (R), Rakeem Boyd (R), Dedrick Mills (R)
Full backs: Nick Bawden, Jason Cabinda (LB/FB)
Detroit Lions quarterbacks
Lastly, we get to the quarterbacks, who get so much attention that we hid them at the end of the article. This group has always gotten so much heat that guys are on the hot seat before anyone even discusses them going to Motown.
Jared Goff is the starter, this we all know. Goff came with a handful of draft picks that the Detroit Lions can wield going into the next two drafts to address holes in the roster. Those are the facts.
What is unknown is what the long-term plan is at the position. General manager, Brad Holmes, is saying publicly that the job is Goff’s to lose. They did not draft a quarterback for Goff to keep looking over his shoulder at and have assured him that they are supporting him right now.
The Lions signed a running back, four wideouts, a tight end, drafted a lineman, a wide receiver, and another running back, not even counting the undrafted players brought in to compete; that all confirms to fans (and Goff) that Holmes isn’t talking out of both sides of his mouth.
No real long-term evidence exists but Goff has a two-year window to entrench himself as the starter but could definitely play his way out sooner if he doesn’t recapture some of his better play from 2017-2018 when he led the Rams to the Super Bowl and was voted to the Pro Bowl.
Behind him are two guys who have flashed some potential at points but not had much meaningful time on the field. Tim Boyle and David Blough have been hanging around as backups for the last 3-4 years after both had productive college careers. Neither looks like the answer if Goff were to spend any significant time out of action but both have some upside.
Detroit Lions quarterback candidates:
Jared Goff, David Blough, Tim Boyle
The offensive line finally looks like a unit that could be formidable if they figure out the right guard position. While Goff is no Matthew Stafford in arm talent, he has the tools to work with that should not limit the offense if he can distribute the ball effectively.
You have to like the direction that the run game is going in, the Motor City Kitties finally have some depth and that should bode well for Goff’s ability to lean on play-action and get the ball down the field.
While the weapons on the outside are short-term and either need to develop some young players or possibly upgrade during next year’s draft, they have some potential. Hockenson is the defacto No. 1 receiver but Williams, Perriman, and rookie St. Brown compliment the running backs who also have good hands. We could envision a scenario where only Hockenson gets near 1,000 yards but a few other guys are all equally productive “other” options.
The offense as a whole will not be as exciting as what we have been accustomed to. What we have to hope for is that they can be balanced and efficient, run the ball, mix in the passing game, and take some shots down the field.
More important is what kind of field position the special teams and defense give them to work with and whether or not they are playing from behind on the scoreboard. They are not equipped to strike fast or often but who knows, it’s not even preseason yet.