D’Andre Swift can dominate for Detroit Lions offense
By: Jake Rajala
The Detroit Lions capped off the 2020 season with a fourth place finish in the NFC North. The Lions started the offseason by searching for a new head coach. Dan Campbell, who was the tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints, was hired to be the next leader in the Motor City.
In a brief reflection of the Lions offseason leading up to July, the Lions have made some noticeable changes. Campbell shipped out Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff, the team opted to let Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones walk out the door in free agency, and the Lions drafted the decade like talent offensive tackle Penei Sewell sixth overall.
All in all, the Lions appear to be in a rebuilding phase. The Lions took a step back at the QB position, they let both talented wideouts leave, and they appear to be building from the inside out (OL to perimeter).
With all of this being said, the question begs to ask: Are the Lions destined to finish fourth in the division again and should fans throw in the towel? I believe the Lions have a very challenging task ahead, but the answer is a clear no.
Here is why the Lions may not only end last, but also boast a chance to win the NFC North in 2021.
- D’Andre Swift
The Lions second year running back is undoubtedly the best weapon on the roster. It may seem obvious that Swift will need to perform with his expectations given for the Lions to have a fighting chance. Although, the enticing part is that the Lions have shown to have a winning chance and different outcome when Swift is playing exceptionally well.
Swift ran over 80 yards only twice last season. In both matchups where Swift found success on the ground, the Lions came out 2-0. It’s a small sample size, but leaning on Swift appeared the utmost efficient, not to mention that two victories from the explosive RB was half of the regular season wins (four).
Outside of the importance and examples shown with Swift’s rushing success correlated to victories, it appears likely that Swift will be a very talented halfback among the whole league next year. Swift grew into the RB1 role late last season and In the last six games, he collected four 60+ rushing yard performances. With Sewell and Frank Ragnow upfront together, Swift should build off his rushing success last year and continue to help the Lions oust more victories.
- QBs in the NFC North
The Lions will have a very difficult time winning the division if Aaron Rodgers stays in Title town. However, if Rodgers leaves the NFC North, the Lions odds would undoubtedly increase. Particularly in the head to head matchups, the Lions would have a much better chance of beating GB if Rodgers isn’t taking the field.
In three of the past four games the Lions faced off against the Packers, the Lions lost by less than seven points.
Outside of GB, the NFC North QBs hold serious question marks. The Bears will either roll with the shaky Andy Dalton, or they will go down the path of having a rookie QB in a lackluster offense. Fields clearly holds special ability, but his NFL ready ability is a serious question. The Lions split games with the Bears last year.
In Minnesota, the most stable QB situation resides. Kirk Cousins is a stable starter, despite not being an impressive force throughout most of his career.
None of the QBs in the NFC North are clear above average QBs, or appear to have the ability to blow an average defense out of the building. Indeed, the Lions didn’t even hold an average defense last year. Nonetheless, the Lions should have a noticeably different defensive impression in 2021.
- Improved defense
The Lions defense was undoubtedly dreadful in 2020. It was in fact the worst defense in franchise history. There is nowhere to go, but up for DET’s defensive unit next season. In fact, it appears that the defense will take steps of growth.
Aaron Glenn was hired by Campbell to be the new defensive coordinator. As the DC, Glenn should light a spark in the secondary (Jeffery Okudah), utilize the speed of the LB core, and be more aggressive against QBs (which will work great in the division). Glenn helped Marshon Lattimore be one of the top CBs in the game, so he will look to help Okudah do the same in DET. If the Lions defense can make more plays and noticeably improve on the back end, the Lions defense will keep themselves in more games.
With a stronger effort from Swift, weaker competition in pivotal divisional matchups, and the weak link (defense) completely transforming, the Lions should find themselves more on the winning side of their usual close games. It’s safe to say that the often scrutinized organization being led by the unpopular QB at least holds a chance to win the NFC North division in 2021.