An NFL team’s preseason record has no bearing on how they’ll do in the regular season. The Detroit Lions proved that in 2008. However, the Lions did showcase things in their 27-17 loss to the Colts on Friday night, making the next several days very interesting in the Motor City.
Like every NFL team, the Lions have until 4 p.m. on Tuesday to finalize their 53-man roster for the start of the regular season. And with that in mind, the Lions rested most of their starters, allowing them to look at different players and how they perform. One position battle that garnered a lot of eyes is at running back.
D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams are shoo-ins for the No. 1 and No. 2 running back slots for the Detroit Lions. That should be a given. And even though Swift is coming off a groin injury, he’ll be the No. 2 back at worst.
However, what about the third slot?
That’s the big question.
Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike, and Craig Reynolds all had good enough showings in the preseason that are worthy of being the Lions’ No.3 RB.
During the first two preseason games, Reynolds was the highlight.
He averaged 7.1 yards over 11 carries, along with two touchdowns. It’s not bad for a man who has spent preseason introducing himself to teammates. Up until last night, he was the only Lions player with multiple touchdowns in the preseason.
Then Godwin Igwebuike (and David Blough) said, “hold my beer.”
During Friday’s loss to the Colts, Igwebuike scored his second touchdown this preseason while chipping in seven carries for 25 yards. Igwebuike has displayed a ruggedness in his game. Even Lions head coach Dan Campbell acknowledged it. His second effort to plunge in for a touchdown on Friday night defines the grittiness Campbell and Co. are seeking.
Igwebuike’s play has improved throughout training camp, especially over the last two games. He’s also a great story, as he came into the NFL as an undrafted safety. His transition to running back is becoming one of the good stories from training camp. The last time Igwebuike played the position was in high school. He displayed his versatility as well, opening the game as a returner on the game’s kickoff.
Both Reynolds and Igwebuike made their cases for the No. 3 running back slot for the Lions while also vying for a roster spot. As good as both players faired this preseason, Jermar Jefferson, in my opinion, planted his flag as the Lions’ third RB.
During the 26-20 loss to the Steelers last Saturday, Jefferson only had three carries for 22 yards. So that sample size wasn’t enough to showcase his entire repertoire. And he probably didn’t even showcase during Friday night’s loss to the Colts.
Nevertheless, he showed enough.
Jefferson finished with 11 carries for 43 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per rush. He had several runs that displayed how his quickness and fluidity will be a problem for defenders. And if that wasn’t enough, he proved he has no problem hurdling over them as well.
Although he was essentially nonexistent in the preseason opener against the Bills, Jermar Jefferson’s play over the last two games demonstrates that he is quite the playmaker. He’s consistently showcased this ability throughout training camp. Fans have yet to see how good he is catching passes out of the backfield. He’s had a couple of receptions in the preseason but nothing to write home about.
Despite that, overall, his versatility is something that Reynolds nor Igwebuike can match.
The Detroit Lions have some difficult decisions to make over the next few days. But it won’t be deciding who will backup D’Andre Swift or Jamaal Williams.
Jermar Jefferson solved that one Friday night.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.