Several years ago, a running back from Philadelphia caught the eye of then-Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley. On Sunday, he caught the eye of Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni.
"The kid from Philadelphia," Sirianni said after the Eagles topped the Lions 38-35 in the season opener at Ford Field, "is a really, really outstanding back."
The kid from Philadelphia took his first carry of the game for 50 yards. He took his second for 11 to help set up a touchdown. Later, the kid from Philadelphia found the end zone himself, darting around the edge of the Eagles defense for a no-doubter on fourth down. He finished with 144 yards and an NFL-best 9.6 yards per carry in Week in 1, but the kid from Philadelphia wasn't pleased.
"I hate losing with a passion," said D'Andre Swift.
Swift was the reason the Lions nearly won. But he thought he could have done more. He always thinks he could have done more: one more move, one more strewn defender, one more game-breaking play. After setting a career-high in rushing yards, Swift was probably thinking about the one yard he lost on a pass out of the backfield to open the game.
"I feel like I left a lot out there," he said. "I’ve got to be better for the guys.”
The gap between Swift and Jamaal Williams is now impossible to ignore. Williams rammed home a pair of touchdowns from the goal line on Sunday, but Swift was consistently the most dangerous player on the field. With four more carries than Williams, he ran for 116 more yards. There is no longer a 1 and a 1A in the Lions' backfield. There is a 1 and a 2, and Swift's workload should reflect it.
"We’ve got some good players, but Swift is a dynamic player for us and the one guy that can take it anywhere," said Dan Campbell. "He can take it to the house from anywhere on the field and I’m glad he’s ours.”
Swift and Williams split rushing duties last season: 11.6 carries per game for Swift, 11.8 for Williams. Swift still played about twice as many snaps thanks to his involvement in the passing game, but it's time for his role on the ground to expand. A 60-40 divide in carries will better serve Detroit's offense, which is under tons of pressure to make up for its defense.
When Staley took over as running backs coach of the Lions last year, he said he wanted Swift to push 25 touches per game. That remains a bit high for a player the Lions want to preserve for a full season -- and for several more to come -- but 20 per game is well within reason. Swift had 16.4 per game last year, to 13.8 for Williams. That divide should be closer to 70-30 this year given everything Swift can do in space.
"He’s damn good and we just need to get him the ball," said Jared Goff, whose longest pass last season was a screen that Swift took 63 yards to the house.
The Lions have surrounded Goff with more weapons this year, but Swift remains their most dynamic player. (Jameson Williams will eventually have a say in this discussion.) He's a threat to do damage whenever and wherever he touches the ball. And in a league where "one, two plays can change the momentum of the game," said Swift, every touch matters.
It's time for the Lions to give him more.
"Whatever they see fit for me, I’m ready," said Swift.
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