Detroit Lions likely to leave far less 'meat on the bone' in running game this season

With the full switch of their top backfield duo, the Detroit Lions are lined up to leave less 'meat on the bone' on the ground this year.

It's undeniable, for the most part and for most people, that the Detroit Lions upgraded their backfield this offseason. Out went Jamaal Williams and eventually D'Andre Swift, and in came David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs. At minimum, we know Montgomery is a better all-around back than Williams. No matter what ESPN's Bill Barnwell says on that matter.

At OTAs, via Lions Wire, Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson talked about "leaving a lot of meat on the bone" in the run game. Williams would get the yards blocked for him, and grind for a bit more. Swift had moments where he lacked ideal running instincts, or maybe feared contract and getting banged up again. In any case, "leaving meat on the bone" on the ground is something that should noticeably improve this season. And it may improve substantially.

Detroit Lions likely to leave way less 'meat on the bone' on the ground this year

Via Sports Info Solutions, Montgomery's 18.4 percent rate of broken-plus-missed tackles forced last season was 10th-best in the league among backs with at least 100 carries. Williams was at eight percent, 35th out of the 40 qualifiers.

Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire narrowed the data to just broken tackles, and narrowed to broken tackles per carry. Here are the important notes from Risdon.

"Williams broke 16 tackles for the Lions in 2022. He did that on 262 rushing attempts, a rate of 0.06 broken tackles per carry. Swift broke five tackles on his 99 attempts, a rate of 0.05.

Among backs who played at least 250 snaps, those rates rank 46th for Williams and 52nd for Swift (ties broken by the number of carries) out of 71 qualifying RBs in the league.

Montgomery instantly upgrades that broken tackle factor. He broke more tackles by himself with the Bears (23) than Williams and Swift did combined in Detroit (21), and did so on just 201 rushing attempts. His broken tackle rate of 0.11 ranked 16th in the league, tied with Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb (among others)."

Jeff Risdon, Lions Wire

The broken tackle-type data for college running backs is more elusive, and thus harder to break down to the finer points. But Gibbs was credited with 104 forced missed tackles over three seasons at Georgia Tech and Alabama, without differentiating for broken and missed tackles, and any prolonged look at his highlights shows a back who is very elusive with a little bit of power.

We've seen a lot of these kind of numbers before this offseason, comparing Williams and Montgomery in elusiveness, broken tackle data, etc., from multiple sources. But a Lions' offense that was quite good last year has room to leave less unrealized yards on the field with the backfield duo this season.


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