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Lions hoping Montgomery, rookie Gibbs can keep running game going in positive direction

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions are counting on running backs David Montgomery, in his fifth season, and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs to give them a strong running game for the second straight season.

Neither played in last week's preseason loss to the Jaguars and they likely won’t see action in the preseason finale on Friday at Carolina. The pair flashed during training camp which wrapped up on Wednesday at the Lions practice facility.

“Seeing those guys in the explosive runs really takes your eyes back to what we’ve been focusing on in our room for a long time is our O-line. They were fantastic, some of those holes I think I could’ve gotten through,” assistant head coach Scottie Montgomery said on Wednesday. “Collectively, what I did like to see from those guys is what we did on the second level, our O-line is getting us to the second level, sometimes even to the third level.”

Gibbs, drafted 12th overall, has been a good fit from the get-go.

“We kind of opened it up, we said we were going to slowly give it to him at the beginning, then we just kind of threw it all at him,” Scottie Montgomery said. “Physically he’s been on point. He’s quick, he’s fast, he sets blocks.”

The Lions ranked 11th in the NFL with 2,179 rushing yards in 2022 with RBs Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift who are no longer with the team. It was the team's best team rushing production since 1997 when the Lions ranked second with 2,464 yards — 2,053 of those from Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.

Expectations are high.

“I think it’s going to be lethal, I think it’s going to be real deadly,” Montgomery said of his pairing with Gibbs. “Jah does some special things and I think I can do a lot of special things too. It’ll be fun to be able to get behind those guys up front, the way the wide receivers block too.”

During an intersquad full contact scrimmage on Tuesday, Gibbs’ scampered nearly 30 yards for a touchdown and Montgomery scored from 1 yard out.

“I know me, I like getting hit so I’ve got to get out there and make sure I get hit every now and then so I get my pads loose so I can be ready to run into somebody,” said David Montgomery who played for the Bears the past four years.

He calls the adjustment “pretty smooth.”

“I mean every day he gets more and more comfortable with what we’re doing and look, it’s a long year too. You can try to do everything you can possibly do to be like you’re going to be ready for Week 1 — and you are and we are, but God dang, man, it’s a long season,” coach Dan Campbell said.

Scottie Montgomery credits the veteran running back in the development of Gibbs.

“The level of professionalism you learn not from coaches, you learn from your peers. That’s what you do,” Montgomery said. “When I came in as a rookie, I had great guys around me, this is the standard, the standard is set. if you get off the standard you’re not worried about your coach saying something you’re worried about the rest of the room saying something.”

NOTES: Wednesday’s final training camp session was the first day the Lions put in plays for the Chiefs, their regular-season opponent on Sept. 7. … Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu and WR Amon St. Brown (ankle) worked with trainers on the sidelines. St. Brown caught a pass during the walkthrough portion of practice. Neither is expected to play on Friday at Carolina in the final preseason game. … Campbell doesn’t expect to play starters on Friday, but left the door open if he changes his mind.

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