The Detroit Lions rushing attack has notoriously struggled since the days of Barry Sanders. The last time the Lions finished a season in the top 10 in rushing yards was... 1998—Sanders’ last year in the NFL. Since that time, the Lions have finished dead last in rushing yards five times. Heck, this team hasn’t rushed for over 4.2 yards per carry as a team in a season in a decade.
But there seems to be a significant push for optimism this offseason. D’Andre Swift is coming off a promising rookie season, and this year, he’ll be paired with a young-but-proven complementary back in Jamaal Williams.
More importantly, the Lions’ investment in the offensive line over the past few years appears ready to finally pay off. Taylor Decker has established himself as one of the more consistent left tackles in the league. Frank Ragnow may be the best center in football. Throw in a second-year Jonah Jackson and the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft in Penei Sewell, and Detroit’s offensive front could be a top-five unit in the NFL.
We’ve been fooled before, though. Detroit has tried to plug resources into both the running back position and the offensive line before, and for various reasons, it has never come together.
Is this first year under a new head coach and offensive coordinator the year it all finally turns around? Today’s Question of the Day is:
Where will the Lions’ rushing attack rank in 2021?
My answer: I’m not willing to predict anything other than an average rushing attack in Year 1. I’ve got a few reasons for that.
To begin with, this is the first year in a new regime. Everyone is going to be figuring things out. The coaches will be feeling out each other and doing their best to familiarize themselves with a new roster and bend the scheme to fit their strengths. That doesn’t happen overnight.
Additionally, the Lions are likely to be playing from behind often in 2021. This team still lacks a lot of talent on defense, so they’ll need to score a lot on offense. While I believe Dan Campbell and Anthony Lynn will want to stay as balanced as possible, sometimes the game just doesn’t work in your favor there. If Detroit finishes in the top half of the league in rushing attempts, I would be very, very surprised.
Finally, I’m just not willing to believe yet. Everything looks good on paper, but as I said before, we’ve been fooled time and time again. Is it fair or logical to use this team’s history against the current set of players and coaches here right now? Absolutely not. But I don’t claim to be a rational person 100 percent of the time.
Overall, I expect this rushing attack to finish around 20th in total yards, but they could crack the top half of the league in overall efficiency.
Where will the Lions finish in rushing yards for 2021?
This poll is closed