For all he does well, the area Lions running back D’Andre Swift struggled in last season is not too shocking.
Even as he has been challenged to play through being simply “banged up”, there’s no denying the talent level of Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift. He is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league, and one of the most elusive backs overall based on at least one metric.
"There’s a lot of stuff,” Swift said. “I’m real critical of myself. I was watching tape the other day, like the first six games. (I) feel like I missed a lot of runs, (need to) always be patient, fall forward, run behind my pads a little bit better, route running (needs) to be more crisp. (There are) a lot of little details and stuff I can work on to take my game to the next level.”There’s a lot of hidden yardage out there, when I look at the tape from last year.”"
D’Andre Swift struggled in not-so surprising area last year
Swift is a short (5-foot-9) and solidly built back (211 pounds). But he is not a physical runner, leaving aside his Week 5 win of “Angry Runs” on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” for his trucking of Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland after a reception last season.
According to NFL Inside Edge, courtesy of Lions Wire, among 33 running backs with at least 53 qualifying attempts, Swift had the worst yards per carry on runs up the middle (3.0, 188 yards on 63 attempts). Rashaad Penny lapped the field, averaging 8.6 yards per carry on middle runs, but Swift averaged half as many yards on said runs as No. 2 Melvin Gordon.
As Jeff Risdon of LW noted, Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds both averaged over 4.1 yards per carry up the middle last year–so Swift’s lack of success is not the fault of the Lions’ interior blocking.
According to Inside Edge, since the start of the 2020 season and with a minimum of 69 attempts, Swift has the highest ratio of 10-plus yard runs on runs to the left (20.5 percent, 16 of 78). So running behind left tackle Taylor Decker and left guard Jonah Jackson has been profitable for him.
Whatever it is that caused Swift to be such an ineffective runner up the middle last year, strength/power, patience, vision, footwork…a combination of things, getting better between the tackles looks like a big key to unlocking his full ceiling this year.