| Detroit Free Press
Are Detroit Lions as bad off as we thought? Breaking down Cards win
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez break down what we learned about the Detroit Lions after their win over the Cardinals on Sept. 27, 2020.
Kyle Caskey swears it’s coming, and when it does, he doesn’t want you to be surprised.
Rookie running back D’Andre Swift played just six of a possible 67 offensive snaps in the Detroit Lions’ 26-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals last week.
That’s hardly the impact the Lions expected when they took Swift with the 35th pick of April’s draft, but Caskey, the team’s running backs coach, said Swift’s limited early season role should not be misconstrued.
“My impression of him has been nothing but exactly what we thought we were getting,” Caskey said. “He’s going to be a really good player in this league for a long time. I’m excited to have him and I know over time, everybody else will see what we’re seeing. It’ll happen.”
Swift missed about two weeks of training camp with a hip injury that cost him valuable practice reps and set him back when it came to learning the playbook and adjusting to the speed of the NFL game.
Rather than wait for him to catch up, the Lions went out and signed veteran running back Adrian Peterson at the end of camp and have given him the majority of carries — Peterson has 43 rushes for 209 yards, more than the rest of the Lions’ backfield combined (26 for 82 yards) — through three games.
With Kerryon Johnson, the starter in 2018-19, playing what offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell described as the “spell runner” role, Swift has been deployed primarily as the Lions’ two-minute back.
He has eight carries for 20 yards, another 94 yards receiving on nine catches, third most on the team, and dropped the would-be winning touchdown pass against the Chicago Bears, but has had limited opportunities on offense overall.
“I don’t think it’s anything he hasn’t shown me,” Caskey said. “I’ve seen it. I know what he can do. Obviously, like you mentioned it, there’s a lot of talent in the room and there’s really only — right now it’s hard. We got one guy on the field at a time. I’d love to get all fricking three of them on the field at the same time, but that’s not my call.”
Swift’s smattering of snaps last week — including his five special teams snaps, just five other healthy second-round picks saw less playing time across the league — was in part due to a game script that tilted the Lions’ way.
The Lions used a heavy dose of Peterson early in an effort to control the clock and keep Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray off the field, and they ran just six offensive plays in a controlled two-minute drive at the end of the first half, when Swift had his only catch of the game.
In the second half, the Lions started their final possession with 4:49 on the clock and methodically moved down field for the winning field goal as time expired. Peterson, who had 22 carries for 75 yards, but only 9 yards on eight carries in the second half, played most of that drive.
Swift, the feature back at Georgia last season after splitting time his first two years, said last week that he was “real comfortable” with the way the Lions are dividing time in their backfield.
Eventually, Caskey said, he could see more of that time going to Swift.
“Really it’s just being able to put it all together,” Caskey said. “Because the play calls get long and the quarterback says it really fast. It’s one of those things that just getting out there and hearing it, and speaking the language just like it’s the first language you’ve ever spoken. Whenever he can speak it like he speaks English, that’s kind of what we’re trying to get him to. But that’s like any rookie, honestly, and then the fact that we don’t have any preseason games or really an offseason, that’s where the guys really missed the spring was the rookies coming in just all the little details of hearing things and seeing things, talking to the other players. That’s where those things, kind of we’ve had to really speed that along.”
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