Lions Rookie Turns Heads at OTAs: ‘It Just Comes So Natural’

Jahmyr Gibbs

Getty Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs is impressing at OTA practices.

The Detroit Lions selected running back Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 overall, which was before most NFL draft experts suggested. But early in offseason workouts, the Lions appear to be reaping the benefits from their “reach” for the Alabama running back.

The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy reported during the second week of Lions OTAs that Gibbs has been one of the team’s standouts.

“He just looks the part. His route-running out of the backfield is as advertised, and the Lions have continued to split him out wide in team scrimmages,” Pouncy wrote on June 1. “It just comes so natural for him, which isn’t always the case with running backs. Some look stiff because they don’t work on that element of their games.

“Gibbs does. He’s so fluid, even in drills.”

Gibbs used those receiving skills plenty of times during college. In three seasons at Georgia Tech and Alabama, he caught 103 passes for 1,212 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Last season with the Crimson Tide, Gibbs recorded a career-high 44 receptions for 444 yards and 3 scores. That was on top of 926 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground while averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Lions Lining Up Jahmyr Gibbs at WR

One of the big criticism for the Lions drafting Gibbs at No. 12 was positional value. Running backs typically don’t have long careers, which has recently lowered their overall draft value.

With that drop in value, teams have been able to find quality backs on Days 2 and 3 in the draft in recent years.

Even when not taking positional value into account, ESPN still ranked Gibbs as the No. 28 overall player in the 2023 draft class. Bleacher Report rated the Alabama running back at No. 31 in the class while Pro Football Focus slotted him at No. 34 overall.

Gibbs, though, appears to be proving his naysayers wrong early in offseason workouts. One of the main reasons why is because he’s more than just a running back.

Not only can he catch passes out of the backfield, as Pouncy noted, the Lions are lining up Gibbs as a receiver. Based on Pouncy’s report, he’s a natural in that role.

With Gibbs’ ability to play receiver, the Lions could deploy the rookie running back and newly-signed David Montgomery on the field at the same time. Both are expected to have big roles this season, and it will be useful for the offense to have each back involved on the same plays.

Gibbs at wideout could also solve the team’s receiver depth issue. Jameson Williams will miss the first six games because of a gambling suspension. Gibbs at receiver will help fill that hole early in the season.

Bold Prediction for Gibbs’ Rookie Season’s Adam Schein has bought into the Gibbs hype from OTAs. In his bold predictions, Schein projected Gibbs to lead not just rookie running backs in touchdowns but all running backs in scores.

“Gibbs is not just a running back; with legit pass-catching ability, he’s a true offensive weapon with breakneck speed,” Schein wrote. “He’s a home run hitter, and savvy offensive coordinator Ben Johnson will exploit this to the fullest.

“Jamaal Williams — last year’s NFL rushing TD king — and D’Andre Swift are gone. While free-agent signee David Montgomery is a solid power back who could vulture some scores, Gibbs is the first-rounder.

“The electric playmaker will prove Lions brass correct while helping lead Detroit to big things this year.”

Gibbs led Alabama in touchdowns last season with 10. He scored 23 total touchdowns (15 rushing and 8 receiving) in 31 college games.

Based on his skills and Detroit’s early use of the rookie running back, it’s easy to envision Gibbs finding the end zone a lot in 2023.

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