Can the Lions cope without running back Jamaal Williams? 

The Detroit Lions are being tipped as a possible NFC Champion. Yes, according to reports, the Lions are currently the most bet on the team when it comes to the NFC. A lot of bettors, professional and casual, are jumping on the Lions bandwagon ahead of the 2023 season.  

There is a lot of optimism around the Lions this season after 2022’s 9-8 record under second-year head coach Dan Campbell. With all the optimism around the Lions, it seems easy to forget the team will go into 2023 without last season’s leading rusher Jamaal Williams.  

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Williams rushed for 1,066 yards in 2022. He was the first Lions running back since Reggie Bush in 2013 to run for more than 1,000 yards. Only seven players have ever run for 1,000 yards or more in a Lions Jersey – Bush, Barry Sanders, Billy Sims, Kevin Jones, James Stewart, Steve Owens, and Williams. The former BYU Cougar running back is in rarified air in Detroit. Yet, the Lions couldn’t keep him. 

Williams’ stay at Ford Field lasted just two seasons. This summer, he departed for the New Orleans Saints thanks to a three-year, $12 million contract. The Lions didn’t work too hard to keep the running back in Motor City. Now in his seventh NFL season, Williams left Detroit feeling disrespected by the contract he was offered.  

This is where conflicting reports make it difficult to know what Detroit’s actual contract offer to Williams was. Williams stated the Lions’ offer wasn’t close to the Saints’ contract. Meanwhile, another source stated the Lions offered Williams three years and close to $18m. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.  

In 2022, Williams was electric for the Lions. Along with running for over 1,000 yards, he scored 17 touchdowns and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. It wasn’t just a great season for the running back, it was his best season as an NFL running back. Before the 2022 campaign, Williams' best season came in 2021 with the Lions. He totaled 601 yards and averaged 3.9 yards a carry. He only scored three touchdowns.  

There is no doubt that Williams will be missed by the offense. But the Lions acted quickly to replace the running back by drafting Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs and signing former Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery. Montgomery signed a three-year, $18m deal, which is the rumored contract Williams would have received had he stayed. Again, there are conflicting reports on that contract offer.  

Montgomery is younger by two years. He is also a former 1,000-yard rusher, having tallied 1,070 yards in 2020. Indeed, Montgomery has been more consistent in his NFL career compared to Williams, rushing for more than 800 yards in his four previous NFL campaigns. Williams will be missed, but Montgomery should slide right into Campbell’s offense as the ideal replacement.  


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