“This is the year the Detroit Lions finally establish a running game.”
It’s a line we’ve been telling ourselves around this time in the offseason seemingly every year. The Lions have poured resources into the running game ever since Barry Sanders retired back in 1999, but they somehow have never found the right formula.
I’d like to pretend to say that “this year feels different,” but I’m pretty sure I’ve said those words before, too. That being said, there are some very promising signs on the horizon. We’ve talked plenty about how the offensive line will now feature three first-round picks, two Pro Bowlers and an up-and-coming third-round pick.
Turns out there’s legitimate reason to feel pretty good about the Lions backfield as well. Detroit has struggled to find a stable running back crew, but based on last year’s statistics they could be in a very good situation with their top two backs. As pointed out by Twitter account Michigan Football Analytics—run by Tej Seth of PFF—both D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams displayed two of the most important features for a running back last year: avoiding negative plays and creating explosive plays.
Seth plotted both of those statistics against each other—Explosive Run Rate vs. Bad Run Rate—and both Lions running backs fell in the best quadrant (top right):
two (2) of the most important features of a rusher: avoiding negative plays and being explosive— Michigan Football Analytics (@mfbanalytics) June 22, 2021
the ravens have 3 rushers that can do both in lamar jackson, jk dobbins and gus edwards while the lions have 2 in d'andre swift and jamaal williams pic.twitter.com/WQSCkhdzOe
Jamaal Williams did a particularly good job of avoiding bad runs last year— only J.K. Dobbins, Damien Harris, Latavius Murray, Chris Carson, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Jeff Wilson Jr. posted less frequent Bad Run Rates. Meanwhile, Swift was ranked in the top 10 of Explosive Run Rate.
Combine the promise of Detroit’s backfield with the offensive line’s potential and the ability of offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, and maybe—just maybe—this is truly the year for the Lions running game.
- VERY IMPORTANT NEWS: It appears the Lions have taken down the “Dagger Time” banner, as evidenced by the rookies’ trip to Ford Field on Monday:
June 22, 2021
- Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire went back and looked at the scouting reports for Lions fourth-round pick Derrick Barnes.
- Frank Ragnow got married over the weekend. See how many current and former Lions you can spot in these wedding photos:
@KNARFWONGAR congratulations to you and Lucy! Appreciate you allowing me to be apart of your wedding day. Love ya man. pic.twitter.com/ArWm85ive2— Travis Swanson (@Tswan64) June 21, 2021
- Lions GM Brad Holmes had his eye on Penei Sewell well before this year’s draft. Holmes told DetroitLions.com when he first heard about Sewell and how his love for the former Oregon Duck’s game grew over the past year.
- On Monday, Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to announce publicly that he is gay, and his announcement also came with a $100,000 donation to The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that focuses on suicide prevention for the LGBTQ community.
Tuesday, Fanatics announced that Nassib jerseys were the highest selling jerseys of the past 24 hours.
Raiders’ DE Carl Nassib is the top-selling NFL jersey across the @Fanatics’ network both yesterday and today.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 22, 2021