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Monday open thread: Is 2022 a make-or-break year for D’Andre Swift?

The former second-round running back has had flashes of brilliance, but injuries and inconsistent play leave his future with the team up in the air after 2022.

Green Bay Packers vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Detroit Lions may soon have a difficult decision to make about their former second-round running back entering his third season.

Sounds like a broken record, doesn’t it?

For years, the Lions had invested second-round picks in attempts to revitalize a stagnant rushing attack, and each time it went poorly. Injuries plagued every one of these players, leading to short stints in Detroit. They drafted Mikel LeShoure in 2011, who tore his Achilles in training camp of his rookie year and never looked the same. They drafted Ameer Abdullah in 2015, who injured his left foot in his second season and never looked the same. They drafted Kerryon Johnson in 2018, who injured his knees early on and never looked the same.

This is a discouraging trend, and D’Andre Swift’s early career has not been the needed reassurance. Through his first two seasons, Swift has played in 26 of 33 possible games thanks to nagging injuries, though that doesn’t include the times he played through them. Unlike the running backs before him, however, there hasn’t been true career-changing injury. Instead, it may be the accumulation of various injuries that trouble him.

But before we get too far into the doom-and-gloom, let’s look at the on-field results.

Through those 26 career games, Swift has amassed 1,138 total rushing yards. That number is less than ideal, but it is worth noting that the Lions decided split carries with Adrian Peterson in 2020 (bad) and Jamaal Williams in 2021 (good). Additionally, the Lions have often been playing from behind, limiting their ability to run the ball. As a result, Swift’s workload has not been expansive, which could be a positive given his injury history. Running back committees may be disliked by fantasy football owners, but they make sense for teams trying to keep players as fresh as possible.

Where D’Andre Swift truly shines is as a receiver, and a dangerous one at that. Swift has racked up over 800 receiving yards in his career. After dropping a game-winning touchdown in his first career game, Swift has rebounded into a reliable target, especially for quarterback Jared Goff. In 2021, the Lions offense was centered around a short passing attack, and Swift was a key cog in it—although the offense was pretty bad regardless.

Year 3 has historically been the make-or-break season for the Lions’ former second-round backs. LeShoure was cut in 2014 prior to his fourth season. Abdullah was waived in 2018, three games into his fourth season. Johnson, the player drafted in 2018 to replace Abdullah, was himself waived prior to his fourth season in 2021, thanks to the drafting Swift in 2020.

Can Swift break the loop of third year struggles?

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Is 2022 a make-or-break year for D’Andre Swift?

My answer: I think it is, but in a specific way.

I think 2022 is Swift’s last chance to establish himself as a starting running back. Even if you ignore the groin and shoulder injuries, his rushing performances have left much to be desired. He had two 100-yard games in 2021, but one of those came on a whopping 33 carries—averaging out to 3.94 yards per carry. His 14-carry, 136 yard performance against the Cleveland Browns in Week 11 is a statistical outlier for Swift’s career. Swift has struggled to run between the tackles, and while the injury to center Frank Ragnow was partly a factor, Williams was still able to find success running inside. If he can’t break out behind this Lions offensive line, I’m not sure he ever will.

However, I would be surprised if 2022 is Swift’s final year in Detroit. As a runner, he is following the trajectory of LeShoure, Abdullah, and Johnson. What gives Swift an edge is his receiving ability, which makes him a more valuable piece on offense. The Lions may overhaul their running back room next offseason, whether it be through free agency or the draft, but I think Swift should stick around at least until his rookie contract ends. In a passing-driven league, a back with Swift’s receiving ability is a must-have. I don’t know how many more years Swift will be a starter in an NFL offense, but he can be a more than capable third down running back. A reduced role could be beneficial for Swift as well, as it could mean fewer rough hits and fewer injuries, while also playing to his strengths.

Swift and Williams should once again be the top options for the Lions’ rushing attack. That being said, I need to see more from Swift as a runner before feeling confident in his long-term future.

Your turn.

Poll

Is 2022 a make-or-break year for D’Andre Swift?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Yes
    (1140 votes)
  • 36%
    No
    (651 votes)
1791 votes total Vote Now