I swear it’s the curse of Barry Sanders. Since the legendary Hall Of Fame running back called it quits before showing absolutely no sign of slowing down, the Detroit Lions have struggled to find a long-term answer at the position.
This is not a dig against D’Andre Swift; if you are familiar with my work, you are well aware that I have enormous expectations for the second-year tailback. In the past, I’ve referred to Swift as the future three-down franchise-type running back, and the best running back in Detroit since Sanders even before toting the football once.
When the Detroit Lions used a premium draft selection to secure the former Georgia Bulldog, I’d be lying if I said it was expected. I had been completely convinced that Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn had their sights set on AJ Epenesa out of Iowa. Also, if you recall, safety Xavier McKinney had fallen and figured to be a strong candidate to be selected, knowing it was certainly a position of need.
For the record, I was ecstatic when Swift was announced as the selection, but I just didn’t believe Quinn would go in that direction. But Swift is fighting the injury bug like the majority of Detroit’s running backs since Sanders retired. If Detroit’s backs don’t struggle to stay healthy, they seem to fade away quickly, or they are only very productive for a year or two like Reggie Bush, James Stewart, or Kevin Jones.
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To give you an example of what I am trying to say, Jones ranks ninth in Detroit Lions history with 3,067 rushing yards. The only two runners since the year 2000 remotely close to Jones are Stewart with 2,890, Kevin Smith with 2,346, and fan-favorite Joique Bell with 2,235.
This only furthers my point; the Detroit Lions have not had a franchise-caliber back since Barry.
Now, I am not saying Swift’s career is in question or jeopardy or that he’s a bust; I’m just stating that his career is off to a bit of a sputtering start. And by sputtering, not production, just his health is somewhat of a concern.
I still expect the second-year playmaker to develop into a top-ten NFL player at his position, but he was limited to 13 games last season due to injuries. It’s been more of the same to start 2021; Swift has been battling a groin injury during camp and the preseason and may not be ready to go when the Detroit Lions host the San Francisco 49ers in week one.
As a rookie, Swift galloped for 521 yards on 114 carries totaling eight touchdowns. Swift also corralled 46 receptions adding 357 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Let’s hope Swift becomes the franchise back many of us expect.
Although Swift is trending in the right direction, head coach Dan Campbell mentioned Tuesday that he’s concerned Swift won’t be conditioned enough to carry the load by week one, and if active, how much he’ll be able to offer.