Through four games, the Lions are getting a better sense of how their backfield rotation will shape up. With Kerryon Johnson, Adrian Peterson and rookie D’Andre Swift splitting the reps, it’s been a weekly shuffle for who gets the most carries and playing time.
The rotation varies from game to game based on the opponent and the offensive game plan, but some trends are starting to develop through the first few weeks.
Johnson is the starter and Swift played 23 offensive snaps against the New Orleans Saints after playing just six against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3.
Running backs coach Kyle Caskey said there’s still more tinkering to do and figuring out the best fits for certain situations.
“We all know what Adrian Peterson is and what he’s been and what we’ve been trying to do is figure out where he fits in our offense and with the rest of our guys too,” Caskey said. “I think he’s done a good job of being that that lead runner and Swift has shown some things whenever we’ve gotten the ball to him and obviously with his increase in usage in this last game, he was able to get his hands on the ball a few more times.
“It’s just more of a getting the guys going and really trying to figure out the flow of the game between the three of those guys because some of these guys run better when they get the ball a few more times in a row than they do when it’s just sporadic to the game.”
That seems to suggest that they’ll stick with runners when they get a good rhythm going, such as Peterson did during the opener, or what Swift got in the Saints game, when he was more of a threat out of the backfield.
The days of giving the ball to one back and riding him for most of the game are gone; instead, teams are relying more on multiple multi-skilled backs and the Lions like what their backs provide, but deciding how to split things still isn’t easy.
“It’s one football, so you’ve got to figure out ways to distribute that not only they get distributed for us, you’ve got to remember we got some really good receivers and tight ends too. That’s the issue,” Caskey said. “As coaches, you always fight for your guys to get the ball, and again, we’ve got to find ways to put our guys in the best situation possible based on their skill sets.”