Detroit Lions: Is D’Andre Swift on track to be RB1?

D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

After two days of practices, this Detroit Lions’ rookie is an early contender for a major role

Yes, it’s true. Drawing any conclusions after just two training camp practice sessions is somewhat imprudent. However, early returns on the Detroit Lions’ second-round draft pick are promising and could hint at a significant role once the regular season arrives.

If the Lions are going to hoist their long-dormant running game into the upper ranks of the NFL, they will need that draft pick, running back D’Andre Swift to become a contributor. They’ll also need it sooner rather than later.

His performance in the Lions’ early portion of training camp has been turning heads.

As reported by’s Tim Twentyman, rookie running back D’Andre Swift has impressed this week, particularly as a receiver:

"“Swift’s quickness, speed and ability to separate in space was on full display in this (running back vs. linebacker) drill early in practice. … This youngster has a chance to be pretty scary in space in the open field.”"

Swift’s ability to make plays in the passing game is a big reason why the Lions made him their second selection in April. While they will undoubtedly look for him to make a significant impact running the ball, his versatility should make him a candidate to play on all three downs.

Having a deep crew of running backs is an important element of successful NFL teams; look no further than last season’s Super Bowl participants, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Both squads had several backs to whom they could hand the ball off or use on passing downs.

The Lions have been searching for that kind of balance in their backfield for what seems like forever. Swift is clearly a major part of that vision, but could he emerge as a true number one option as a ball-carrier this fall?

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, entering his second year in Detroit, has had some of the best and most rugged running backs of the last two decades at his disposal in his previous two stops directing an offense. With the Minnesota Vikings, four-time All-Pro back Adrian Peterson averaged just under 300 carries from 2007-2010 under Bevell’s guidance while becoming the league’s most dominant ball-carrier.

Leading the Seattle Seahawks’ offense, Bevell also helped Marshawn Lynch become one of the NFL’s most violent runners. Lynch averaged 258 totes a season in five years with Bevell from 2011-2015 while helping the Seahawks reach back-to-back Super Bowls in 2014 and 2015.

Conversely, the Lions have not had a player with more than 200 total carries in a season since Joique Bell hit that mark in 2014 with 223. Of course, they have also not had anyone on the roster capable of managing that kind of workload over that span.

Swift, to his credit, tallied 196 carries over 14 games playing at the University of Georgia in 2019. He seems like the kind of player that could fit the mold of back that has had success under Bevell.

Talented runner Kerryon Johnson also figures to be a large part of the Lions’ offensive gameplan, but he has struggled with injuries – he has played in just 18 games over his first two seasons due to knee problems. It seems doubtful that he will ever become a bell-cow type back. Additionally, every other running back currently on the Lions’ roster is likely ticketed for situational roles or special teams duties.

Related Story. Five reasons to watch Lions training camp closer this year. light

Clearly, the Lions’ offense will rely heavily on their passing game in 2020, and Swift should be a part of that attack. However, should his early progress in training camp continue, and should he prove capable of handling a large number of touches on the ground, the Lions’ offense could reach new heights. A clear-cut, number-one running back in Detroit; what a thought.