The Detroit Lions finally succeeded in getting the ground game going offensively, but it wasn’t long-time veteran Adrian Peterson that provided the spark.
There was a reason the Detroit Lions drafted former Georgia running back D’Andre Swift in the early goings of round two in the 2020 NFL draft. Until Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lions fans were only able to catch glimpses here and there of his incredible potential. But Sunday afternoon, Swift finally had his breakout game that fans had been looking for.
It wasn’t Swift’s fault that he had to wait until week six of the 2020-2021 NFL season, as Lions coaches stubbornly gave veteran running back Adrian Peterson the bulk of the carries on the ground. Now it’s understandable why they looked to Peterson first given that he’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but it was obvious early on that Peterson just isn’t the same back he was nine years ago when offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell last worked with him.
While Peterson is certainly serviceable, and arguably has been the better runner between him and running back Kerryon Johnson, but he just doesn’t bring the same burst and excitement that Swift does when he steps onto the field.
The nation first got a slight glimpse of that in week one against the Chicago Bears when he ran for a touchdown and contributed through the air, but ruined all the good he had done by dropping the would-be game-winning pass. Between weeks two and five, Swift was seemingly more of a pass-catching, change of pace back for the Detroit offense. That was a mistake by the coaches.
Swift was finally given the chance to prove himself this week against the Jaguars and he took full advantage of his opportunities. On his first carry of the game, Swift exploded through the line of scrimmage accelerating into the second level of the Jacksonville defense, picking up 54 yards before being dragged down by a safety. By showing that explosive, decisive running, Swift forced the coaching staff to give him more carries.
He finished the game with 14 carries, 116 yards, and two touchdowns on the ground. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry, and even when you take away the 54-yard run, he still had an impressive rate of 4.76 yards per tote.
Compare that to Peterson, who had 15 carries for 40 yards (2.7 ypc), and it seems obvious that Swift should be getting the lions share of the work in the backfield. Adding to his ability on the ground, Swift is also a big threat through the air out of the backfield. He’s dynamic when he gets the ball in space and can juke any defender out of their shoes.
Swift gives the Lions’ offense an added dimension it just doesn’t have with Peterson or Johnson in the backfield. His ability to quickly slip through a hole the others can’t get through and his added elusiveness was apparent on Sunday. Coincidentally, on a day where Swift righted the running game, the Lions arguably had their most dominant game of the year, one where it wasn’t all on quarterback Matthew Stafford to win.
Aside from a fluke interception that happened on a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage, Stafford was able to get in a rhythm and started delivering strikes to his receivers. It’s no coincidence that the Lions had an impressive showing from the ground game on the same day.
Swift is clearly the most talented back the Lions have right now and he elevates the offense to another level when he’s regularly on the field. It’s time the Lions stop messing around and fully commit to Swift as the lead back on this team. He and the offense will only get better because of it.