One of the more fascinating storylines during this week’s “Hard Knocks” episodes—featuring Detroit Lions training camp—was the relationship between assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley and the team’s third-year running back D’Andre Swift.
Swift has been pegged by many as a potential breakout star this year, and throughout the episode, we saw Staley rave about his potential, but also express frustration about the 23-year-old back struggling to meet those expectations.
“He got it. It’s in there. Boy is special,” Staley said. “And every day we go out there between those lines, he’s got to believe that. And I’ma try my hardest to get that shit out of him. Ain’t no try, I’m going to fucking get it out of him. Because he can be so special.”
On Wednesday, the Lions running back responded to those high expectations set for him.
“I take that very serious,” Swift said. “I know I can be (one of the best). I know I can be. But playing under him, I know I’m going to get there.”
During the episode of “Hard Knocks,” we also see Staley get on Swift after a series of mistakes. At one point, he pulled Swift out of the opening drive of the preseason game against the Falcons to give him some tough love about missing the hole on back-to-back runs. And even though Swift would end up scoring a touchdown on the drive, the Lions running back went straight to Staley to see what exactly went wrong on those prior runs.
“I look forward to it,” Swift said on Wednesday of those coaching moments. “I look forward to it. Like you said, man, there’s a plan. I’m doing my job, not trying to go out there and do too much. Stay within the scheme and let it come to me.”
In Swift’s two previous seasons, he’s flashed some of the potential to be one of the best in the league. In his rookie season, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, fourth among first-year running backs in 2020. Last year, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier after totaling 617 rushing yards and 452 receiving. But in each of his first two seasons, injuries have limited his opportunities. Last year, he had just 213 total touches—24th among all running backs.
Regardless, he’s hoping to nearly double his yardage totals in 2022.
“1,000 (rushing yards), 1,000 (receiving yards),” Swift said. “With Duce, the way he’s coaching me and how I know what I can bring to this team. It can be done.”
If that seems like a pretty lofty goal, it is. In NFL history, only three running backs have ever completed a season with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards: Christian McCaffrey (2019), Marshall Faulk (1999), and Roger Craig (1985).
Still, the Lions remain optimistic about how receptive Swift has been to their coaching, no matter how tough it can be to hear at times.
“Swift, since we walked in this door, has been great as far as that’s concerned,” coach Dan Campbell said. “He doesn’t—Swift’s got thick skin, and he wants to be good. He wants to be great. And so, listen, he can handle any and all of the above and if we didn’t think he could we wouldn’t do it. If we didn’t think he could be the player that we think he can be we wouldn’t be as hard on him. But he’s always been receptive. He’s always put in the work, and so he’s going to be just fine.”