The Detroit Lions made an interesting roster addition on Monday, signing former Chargers running back Justin Jackson.
The Detroit Lions‘ first day in pads at training camp was followed by a roster move. Per the team’s announcement, rookie undrafted wide receiver Corey Sutton was placed on the reserve/retired list Monday, and free agent running back Justin Jackson was signed.
Jackson spent his first four NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, who drafted him in the seventh round in 2018. Over 43 games for the Chargers, working behind Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, he averaged an even 5.0 yards per carry with four rushing touchdowns along with 65 receptions for over 500 yards.
Jackson started seven games for the Chargers, with at least 85 total yards four times and at least three catches five times.
After they drafted Isaiah Spiller in April, the Chargers chose not to bring Jackson back.
Justin Jackson is an interesting addition for the Lions
At first glance, running back is not a position of need for the Lions. D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams have the top two spots on the depth chart locked down, and early accounts out of training camp suggest Craig Reynolds is putting some distance between himself and the others (Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson) in the batttle to be the No. 3 running back.
Before he suffered what seemed to be a pretty bad back/hip injury during a drill last week, undrafted rookie Greg Bell was in the mix competing for a backup running back spot too. Bell is still on the roster, but the signing of Jackson could initially be to fill that void in the competition as a proverbial “camp body.”
But Jackson is more than a camp body. He was a four-time 1,000-yard rusher in college at Northwestern, including leading the Big Ten in rushing in 2016. And he has looked pretty good when given a chance in the NFL. He also played about 30 percent of special teams snaps in three of his four seasons as a Charger, so there’s a path to a roster spot there.
The Lions under Dan Campbell have pledged and followed through on “let the best man win.” So don’t dismiss Jackson coming into camp, showing what he can do and really pushing the incumbent running backs behind Swift in the battle for roster spots and roles.