Lions' Jefferson angry with being inactive and Duce Staley is good with that response

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions don't have the benefit of excess depth at too many spots on the roster, but through three weeks, it's clear they're in a good spot at running back. But because Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift have successfully been shouldering the load — and the team eager to get Swift more involved starting this week in Chicago — there's been zero opportunities for rookie Jermar Jefferson. 

Jefferson has been a healthy scratch each of the first three games, the only player on the roster who can claim that disappointing feat. And, predictably, the seventh-round draft pick has been frustrated, even a little angry with his status.

Lions running back Jermar Jefferson.

That's just fine with position coach Duce Staley. That's how he wants the rookie to feel because it means Jefferson is determined to do what it takes to earn his playing time, whenever that may come. 

"You want him to be upset," Staley said. "That’s just how I see it. I want him mad. I want him angry. I want him in my office at 6 am. I want him in my office at 6 p.m. wondering why. Because that tells me that it means a lot to him, he loves it, and he wants to go out on the field and prove who he is.

"And I’ll tell you this, he has been that," Staley said. "He has been knocking on the door. He has been a little angry, a little standoffish, which is cool. I can deal with that. That means he wants to play."

Staley hasn't been disappointed in Jefferson's performance on the practice field. To the contrary, the coach has been pleased with his pupil's growth since arriving in Detroit several months ago. More than anything, Staley likes the way Jefferson has been applying what's being taught in the classroom. 

"It’s one thing to take the classroom meeting in there and then put it on the field," Staley said. "You’ve got to leave the classroom, and you’ve got to bring that meeting onto the field, and he’s able to do that now. I’m happy where he is."

Beyond the lack of available touches in the backfield, what's really holding Jefferson back is his lack of contributions on special teams. Godwin Igwebuike, who is also ahead of the rookie on the running back depth chart, has played 52 special teams snaps through three games, the second-most on the team. 

Staley said he's been hammering that point home with the rookie.

“That’s number one, and that’s a part of that conversation," Staley said. "In order to go and get the ball as a running back, catch the ball as a running back, protect the passer, you must be dynamic on special teams, and that’s a conversation we have had.”

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers