It’s a line we’ve been telling ourselves around this time in the offseason seemingly every year. The Lions have poured resources into the running game ever since Barry Sanders retired back in 1999, but they somehow have never found the right formula.
I’d like to pretend to say that “this year feels different,” but I’m pretty sure I’ve said those words before, too. That being said, there are some very promising signs on the horizon. We’ve talked plenty about how the offensive line will now feature three first-round picks, two Pro Bowlers and an up-and-coming third-round pick.
Turns out there’s legitimate reason to feel pretty good about the Lions backfield as well. Detroit has struggled to find a stable running back crew, but based on last year’s statistics they could be in a very good situation with their top two backs. As pointed out by Twitter account Michigan Football Analytics—run by Tej Seth of PFF—both D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams displayed two of the most important features for a running back last year: avoiding negative plays and creating explosive plays.
Seth plotted both of those statistics against each other—Explosive Run Rate vs. Bad Run Rate—and both Lions running backs fell in the best quadrant (top right):
two (2) of the most important features of a rusher: avoiding negative plays and being explosive
the ravens have 3 rushers that can do both in lamar jackson, jk dobbins and gus edwards while the lions have 2 in d’andre swift and jamaal williams pic.twitter.com/WQSCkhdzOe
— Michigan Football Analytics (@mfbanalytics) June 22, 2021
Jamaal Williams did a particularly good job of avoiding bad runs last year— only J.K. Dobbins, Damien Harris, Latavius Murray, Chris Carson, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Jeff Wilson Jr. posted less frequent Bad Run Rates. Meanwhile, Swift was ranked in the top 10 of Explosive Run Rate.
Combine the promise of Detroit’s backfield with the offensive line’s potential and the ability of offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, and maybe—just maybe—this is truly the year for the Lions running game.
- Frank Ragnow got married over the weekend. See how many current and former Lions you can spot in these wedding photos:
Tuesday, Fanatics announced that Nassib jerseys were the highest selling jerseys of the past 24 hours.