Former Lions Player Calls out Key Position Group Ahead of 2021

D'Andre Swift

Getty D'Andre Swift runs for a score in 2020 against Tennessee.

The Detroit Lions have a new identity on offense, and a big part of that identity is going to be running the football. That’s a breath of fresh air for a team that needs it in a big way.

Detroit has longed for a team that can take no prisoners in establishing the run, but for one reason or another, it’s evaded them through the years. Former Lions wideout Nate Burleson has a message, and that is how it can no longer happen again.

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Recently, on Good Morning Football, Burleson explained that for the Lions to be successful this season, the ground game has to step up in a major way and finally take flight as they have failed to do for years.

He said:

“I know we’ve been talking about this every single season, but this is the time you have to lean on the run game, especially with Jared Goff learning the playbook, trying to figure out his rhythm. Them shipping out a couple of wide receivers, no more Kenny Golladay, no more Marvin Jones. D’Andre Swift last year showed some glimpses. That guy is a fantastic talent. He has speed, he can get up and down the field. He can get north rally fast. He can also catch out of the backfield. In free agency they went out and got Jamaal Williams, a very high-intensity, high-enthusiasm, high-energy back from the Green Bay Packers. They needed it. Only four times in the last 116 regular season games the Lions have rushed for over 100 yards in a game. The fewest individual 100 yard games. In a day in age when offenses have versatility, the Lions are sitting at the bottom of the pack. It can’t be that way. You look at what the Minnesota Vikings are doing with Dalvin Cook. They can establish the run any game they want. That’s all across the board in the NFC North. The Lions, they have to do that. I love Jared Goff, but you don’t want to have to lean on his arm week in and week out, so hopefully, what they have in the backfield this year will suffice.”

It’s been clear from the start that Anthony Lynn is going to try and rely on a strong ground game to get by this season and help set up the pass. It’s long been a goal for the Lions to control the clock and use the ground game to set up everything else, but finally, it seems as if the team has the right mindset in order to get this done and the right offensive line as well.

2021 is the time to see Detroit get tough and flourish in the trenches.

Detroit’s Ground Game Historically Bad

It’s been since Barry Sanders that the Lions have had an acceptable ground game. Sanders retired before the 1999 season, so it’s been a while that the Lions have been in the doldrums on the ground on offense. The team has tried to turn their fortunes around, from signing names like James Stewart and Reggie Bush to drafting players like Jahvid Best, Theo Riddick, Kevin Smith, Kerryon Johnson and others. It’s been hard to find the right concoction for sustained success, but the hope is D’Andre Swift as well as Jamaal Williams can bring the juice, and a rookie like Jermar Jefferson can have meaningful contributions in the future.

As a whole, the Lions have not even been average on the ground for years, they’ve simply been bad. No longer can that be good enough for the team.

Lions Running Back Depth Strong in 2021

Hopefully for the Lions, the drought is set to expire. It’s been a wild offseason in Detroit for running backs. Detroit just released Kerryon Johnson this month, which was a mild surprise only because of the fact that Johnson was established and a solid pass protector. Other than that, there was a question of where his snaps were going to come from in 2021. The Lions signed Jamaal Williams and have D’Andre Swift on the roster, who many believe is trending toward being a future star. Bringing Jermar Jackson into the mix in the draft likely only complicated matters more for the Lions, who have a ton of depth suddenly at running back. Johnson was likely never going to see the big role that was expected in Detroit, thus the team decided to pull the plug and give Johnson a chance at a fresh start somewhere else.

Even without a potential Todd Gurley signing playing out yet, the team has the horses. At this point, as Burleson says, it’s just a matter of getting them established.

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