| Detroit Free Press
Even in a win, Detroit Lions’ flaws are apparent. Can they fix them?
Dave Birkett, Carlos Monarrez and Shawn Windsor break down the Detroit Lions after their 30-27 win over Washington on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020.
Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift is a man of many talents.
When he was 8 years old, he was in a chess club. He’s also a pretty good bowler and once rolled a 225.
Oh, and he’s decent at football, too.
Swift is a man of few words.
Even when the Lions rookie running back found out he would make his first NFL start in Sunday’s 30-27 win over Washington, he kept it all to himself. Not one day or two. But at least three days. Maybe even four.
A 21-year-old not telling family or friends he was about to enjoy one of the most sacred rites of passage in the NFL? In this day and age? No texts. No tweets. No cryptic emojis or Instagram posts. Nothing.
“I didn’t really see the point in telling them,” Swift said in a conference call Wednesday. “Let them see go out there on the first play of offense and just be happy for me and see how everything’s going to unfold. I didn’t really want to put too much hype into it, you know what I mean?”
Back home in Philadelphia, Darren Swift didn’t appreciate his son’s silent secrecy.
“He was like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you was starting?’ ” Swift said with a laugh of his dad’s reaction. “He was like upset I kept it from him. But he was happy when he saw me walk out there.”
And he was probably even happier after Swift gained 149 yards from scrimmage, and scored his sixth touchdown this season, as a weapon in the run and pass game while showing equals amounts of finesse and power.
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“Yeah, I think it’s kind of been a process for him,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Tuesday. “Coming in, he wasn’t able to get as many reps as we hoped that he would of at the start of training camp with some of the things that he was working through. So feel like we’ve got him up to speed.
“He’s in a good spot and then showed up in the game. He did a great job with the run game. We were able to get him involved in the pass game as well. As you watched the games prior, I think you can kind of see some of the things that were coming and how we were using him. He stepped up.”
Yes, Swift stepped up. And ran over Washington.
Like all rookies this year, Swift had to contend with the challenges of COVID-19, which delayed his development. Then he suffered a leg injury in training camp that further delayed his progress. But he showed glimpses of his talent and effectiveness before Sunday.
Actually, Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule said, that talent was obvious way before Sunday.
When Swift was a star at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, the team would regularly travel a few blocks up North Broad Street to practice at Edberg-Olson Hall, Temple’s practice field. Rhule was Temple’s coach at the time and all he needed to do was look out his office window to see Swift’s talent shining through.
“Yeah, I literally watched him practice every day,” Rhule said in a conference call Wednesday. “I mean, he came out there, I saw him play in games.
“There was no doubt that he was going to be a special, special back and it was always fun for me to see him doing his thing at Georgia. And now seeing him at this level, he’s still the same player. … Tremendously talented.”
So Rhule won’t need any heads up to prepare for Swift when the Lions visit the Panthers on Sunday. But he may need reinforcements.
If Swift ran over Washington’s top-10 defense, the Panthers’ 22nd-ranked defense might want to get creative with some upgrades. Perhaps a Sherman tank division or some barbed wire? Maybe see if Broad Street Bullies like Bobby Clarke or Dave “The Hammer” Schultz would consider coming out of retirement?
After Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones curb-stomped the Panthers on Sunday by running for 192 yards, this might seem like a matchup tailor-made for Swift to have another big day.
But Swift insists his goals are modest. He just wants to be consistent and improve on what he saw from his performance on tape.
He also says he isn’t hung up on the hype or the pressure that comes with heightened expectations from earning the starting job — or keeping it.
“I don’t really feel no pressure at all,” Swift said. “Long as I just keep going out there every single day and preparing like the way I’m preparing, it’s going to take care of itself.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez. Dave Birkett contributed to this report.