Early Stats Point to Resurgence of Lions’ Long-Dormant Ground Game

D'Andre Swift

Getty D'Andre Swift runs the ball against the 49ers in 2021.

It’s long been a goal for the Detroit Lions to turn around a dismal ground attack, and early on in the 2021 season, it looks as if the team is finally on the path toward getting that done.

Bolstered by a strong offensive line, the Detroit running backs managed to impress in Week 1 even in spite of their team’s defeat. Perhaps the best news is they are impressing in more than one way with their effort level and looking well-rounded this season.

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While it’s still very early, following the first game, Detroit’s tandem of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams are off to a very good start on the field. As the Lions PR Twitter account pointed out, Detroit’s running game is showing some signs of serious results in 2021. Already, the team has multiple rushes of 10+ yards which is near the top of the league. That shows a definite ability to explode on the ground. Additionally, Detroit’s running backs are the best in the NFL at catching passes so far.

In a vacuum, these statistics might not matter to many given the small sample size, but they show some positive signs that the Lions could be trending in the right direction with their backfield. After not being able to find many answers through the years at the position, it’s refreshing to see some young backs come in and flip the narrative quickly with big plays.

Lions Running Backs Impressed During Week 1 Loss

During the game against the San Francisco 49ers, the Lions didn’t see either one of their rushers go for over 100 yards on the ground alone, but both managed to impact the game with both the run and the pass, which was superb for overall balance. D’Andre Swift gained 104 total yards and scored on an electrifying screen pass, and Jamaal Williams managed to rack up 110 total yards with 1 tough rushing touchdown. It was a balanced attack like the Lions have been missing the last few years.

While those numbers might not seem that impressive on the whole, the Lions managed to pass the eye test during the game. More often than not, when they dialed up a run, it went for positive yardage if not for big yardage. Their backs also showed a willingness to get involved with the pass. The importance of that cannot be understated considering the team’s usual struggles finding explosive plays at the position.

D’Andre Swift ‘Confident’ in Ground Game, Credits Lions’ Offensive Line

Fans should be confident in what the team can do on the ground because the players are. That’s true of Swift, who believes the Lions have the makings of a great offensive line which allows the running backs to show off their talents on the field consistently.

Speaking after the game on Sunday, September 12, Swift was asked about what makes the ground game go this year compared to other seasons and didn’t hesitate in citing the team’s offensive line first and foremost as a reason for his own group’s success.

“Frank Ragnow, Penei Sewell, Jonah Jackson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Matt Nelson. They do a good job up front,” Swift told the media. “Like I said, we can’t play from behind. We could have done some more things with the run game if circumstances had been a little bit different, but I’m real confident in the team with the run.”

Detroit was forced to throw the ball 57 total times in order to try and rally from a 31-10 halftime deficit, but nearly accomplished the feat. The stats and the play of the running backs seem to indicate that if the team could have a little better start, they could be set to do some damage this season on the ground.

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