One of the more surprising developments from the Detroit Lions roster after cut-day in the NFL is how lopsided their roster is. There’s a plethora of names on the defense but the offense doesn’t have enough players for a second team.
Something to note for Lions fans is that it’s not uncommon for a team to do this. Most of the time, it’s because an organization has their eyes on one or two offensive players that could contribute. For Detroit, that could be the case.
When you look at how their defensive line depth chart takes shape, they could still look to move a player or two and that would open up those roster spots on offense. On the defensive line, they could still be looking to trade either one of the Okwara brothers or they could look to move a player such as Benito Jones. Having seven edge rushers and five defensive tackles is surprising for an offense that could use another playmaker out of the backfield or at wide receiver.
After the Lions announced their 53-man roster, it was surprising to see that they only had two running backs (David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs) and a fullback (Jason Cabinda) listed on the depth chart. Last year, the Lions had four running backs on the roster and that didn’t include Cabinda.
However, two of the running backs on last years roster (Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson) could make it to the practice squad and if they move a defensive player, one of them could make it back to the roster.
That said, could the Lions look to add one of the running backs that were cut this week as teams across the NFL trimmed their roster from 90 players to 53 players?
That’s what I envision the Detroit Lions doing. Now the question is who could they be prepared to add at the running back position? Here’s three running back the Lions could consider adding for their 53-man roster:
Zonovan “Bam” Knight
This will be a player that will be at the top of the list for plenty of teams in the NFL. That’s why it was surprising to see the New York Jets move on from Knight without trading him but maybe their asking price was too high. Either way, the Lions could very well be interested in the talented back who went undrafted out of N.C. State in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Last season as a rookie, Knight ran for 300 yards with a touchdown and he added 13 receptions for 100 yards. At 5’10” and 209 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds and he had a 3-cone drill time of 6.95 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Zonovan Knight’s extra gear is beautiful. He kicks into gear at about the 43 yard line. pic.twitter.com/1RK4xMPttZ
— Zareh Kantzabedian (@ZKantzFF) December 5, 2022
The Lions are familiar with Knight as they limited him to only 23 yards on 13 carries last season during their week 15 battle. Prior to that game, Knight had averaged 77 rushing yards per game for the Jets. Regardless of his stat line versus the Lions, Knight showed his ability to be an effective pass-catcher while being able to run efficiently in a zone running scheme.
The most impressive stat for Knight is that he forced a broken tackle on 34% of his rushes last year and that was number one in the NFL. During training camp, reports came out of New York that Knight excels running behind a fullback and that he looked “like the best running back in camp.”
For Detroit, this would be a home run addition for what they do offensively and how it feels like they need to add a player to their backfield.
Badie is another one-year running back from the 2022 NFL Draft that has some potential. Now that’s simply based on the type of player he was for Missouri. One concern with Badie is that he’s searching for his third team in his second year and he’s only gotten one reception for 24 yards in his career.
Tyler Badie with a TD in his FIRST career game pic.twitter.com/D74lQWXORb
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) January 8, 2023
The hope for a team like Detroit is that they’ve shown that they can tap into a player and pull some good from them. They’ve found ways to create competition and make the players on the roster better. Maybe they can tap into his 4.45 speed and find ways to get him the football. In his four years at Missouri, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and he had 126 receptions.
We’ll see if the Lions spin the tires on this one but adding another player to their backfield seems likely. If they miss out on Knight and potentially other running backs, they could turn towards a player such as Badie.
On and off the Cleveland Browns practice squad the last two years, it’s hard to pinpoint what type of player John Kelly can be. One positive when looking at him is that Brad Holmes was with the Rams when Kelly got drafted in the 6th Round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
For Kelly, he’s been a part of some rosters that already have established running backs. With the Rams, he was behind Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown. With the Browns, he was behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Coming to Detroit to back up David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs is probably less than ideal for a player that’s searching for an opportunity.
However, Detroit presents an opportunity for a third running back. Especially if that running back comes in and works hard. While Kelly isn’t a speedster with his 40-yard dash time of 4.62 seconds, he was a physical runner in college at Tennessee. He shook off tacklers on just about every run, and he showed good lateral ability when cutting in the open field.
While signing John Kelly might not be splashy, it could still be a good move for both parties. After all, Kelly is an Oak Park, Michigan native who could look for one last hurrah in his hometown.