Lions fans may fear D'Andre Swift will now go off on a new team, but the Eagles don't seem set to use his best skill.
When it became certain the Detroit Lions would trade D'Andre Swift, after they made Jahmyr Gibbs the 12th overall pick in the draft, they appeared to work with him to find a trade destination that suited him. Of course a deal was struck to send him to the Philadelphia Eagles, not coincidentally Swift's hometown team.
The Eagles cited Swift's performance against them in Week 1 last season as the first spark of their interest in him. The free agent departure of Miles Sanders created a void in their backfield, and after signing Rashaad Penny they traded for Swift when the opportunity came. Some think Swift is in line for a career year in Philadelphia, which taps into the fear Lions fans will have with him until shown otherwise.
How the Eagles will split their backfield work is a question. Swift, Penny, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott are in the mix. Jalen Hurts is one of the best running quarterbacks in the league, to siphon opportunities away from the running backs.
Lions fans are familiar with Swift's ability as a pass catcher. So that looks like the way he can differentiate himself in the Eagles' running back rotation. So you'd think, anyway...
Eagles don't seem set to put D'Andre Swift's biggest strength to use
Despite struggles to stay on the field as a Lion, Swift had 156 receptions on 205 targets over three seasons (7.7 yards per catch). His target share was always solid as the primary passing down back in Detroit.
There's one thing running quarterbacks, like Hurts, don't tend to do very much--throw short passes to running backs. Rather than take those kind of check-downs at the end of a read progression, they'll take off and run if there's room to do so.
Alas, courtesy of Fantasy Pros for the precise ranking, the Eagles had the lowest target share to running backs last season (12.1 percent). And, naturally, they had the lowest number of total targets to running backs last year (61). If not for Hurts missing a couple games, those numbers would have been a notch lower. Hurts threw to running backs on 11.5 percent of his attempts in 2022 (29th out of 30 quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks).
So it will take a strategic shift for the Eagles to maximize what Swift does as a pass catcher. Maybe that happens. It's safe to assume they wouldn't have made the deal for him without a plan to get the best out of him. But if they intend to use him as any kind of workhorse or a between the tackles guy, that's not ideal. Swift is most effective in space, and that is easiest to do in the passing game.
Lions shouldn't have much (if any) fear Swift finds himself, stays healthy and becomes a star for the Eagles this season. And with how they use their running backs, to say nothing of the depth they have, what he does best isn't lined up to be on display all that much. If he had any hand in picking his trade destination, there were probably better fit for his skills out there.