Detroit Lions running back rotation is here to stay: Sorry fantasy football GMs

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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One week it’s Adrian Peterson. The next it’s D’Andre Swfit. Eventually, it might even be Kerryon Johnson again.

And while the Detroit Lions continue to rotate running backs to the detriment of your fantasy team, running backs coach Kyle Caskey said the timeshare is here to stay because it’s working for them.

“I know this is going to kill fantasy folks out there, but our reality team here, as long as we’re rushing for 180 yards and scoring three touchdowns with our group every game, I don’t think anybody in our room’s caring who’s getting it,” Caskey said Friday. “So they all have the right attitude about it.”

Swift, in his most extensive action of the season, had 116 of the Lions’ 180 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in last week’s 34-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Peterson has been the Lions’ primary rusher through five games, logging 69 carries — as many as every other Lion combined — for 285 yards.

And Johnson has served primarily as the third down back because of his pass protection savvy.

Caskey said he’s in no rush to change those roles, though he did acknowledge that Swift’s uptick in work last week was less matchup-based and more about wanting to get the rookie on the field.

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“We just decided that it’s time for the guy to start going and put him in the game and let him play,” Caskey said. “Don’t be shy about putting him in there. And (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) spoke earlier in the week about having different … ways of getting guys on the field, but sometimes you’ve just got to put them in there and that’s what we did.”

A second-round pick out of Georgia, Swift remains the Lions running back with the most upside, both in real life and fantasy football, as he’s still settling in to his new playbook.

This week, he returns to the state he starred in, in college, when the Lions visit the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It’s kind of like a homecoming in a sense,” Swift said. “I played my college ball there, so going back and playing another great Georgia running back in Todd Gurley, just going back and family coming to the game, it’s going to be a great one.”

Gurley starred at Georgia in 2012-14, and Swift said he considers Gurley like “my big brother.”

They caught up earlier this week, and will square off for the first time as pros Sunday.

More Gurley

Swift is far from the only Lion who’s tight with Gurley. Romeo Okwara said Monday that he and Gurley have gotten to know each other “pretty well” in recent years, and Lions linebackers coach Tyrone McKenzie was an assistant special teams coach with the Rams in 2017, when Gurley was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.

“My son used to go up to the facility and he used to play catch with my son, gave him a signed jersey that my son has in his room with the Rams,” McKenzie said. “I love Todd with all my heart. He’s a great person, and on the field, we can say what we want about Atlanta, but they’re a good team and Todd’s a really, really good running back.”

Gurley led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2017-18, but struggled last season as a chronic knee injury limited his effectiveness.

The Falcons signed Gurley as a free agent this spring, and McKenzie said he’s seen little drop off.

“Todd’s a dude,” McKenzie said. “He’ll be one of the best running backs we face this year. I’m excited for the challenge and the guys are excited as well.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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