One of the biggest concerns for the Detroit Lions entering the 2021 NFL regular season is who will be the primary receiving target for new quarterback Jared Goff. That after the new regime in Detroit opted to flip their wide receiver corps, allowing many of their starters from last season to find new homes this year.
Much of training camp and the upcoming preseason is expected to determine the depth chart at receiver, with several free-agent veterans who signed one-year deals vying for prominent roles. Those new additions include wideouts like Tyrell Williams, Kalif Raymond, and Breshad Perriman.
But the duo who figures to lead the Lions in targets and receptions are not receivers. Those players being Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and second-year running back D’Andre Swift.
Here’s what Tim Twentyman of DetriotLions.com wrote about Swift’s own projected receiving total in 2021 in a recent story that asked which players impressed him this offseason.
” … Swift made a huge impact in the passing game this offseason. There’s a great chance that extends into the fall. Swift’s speed, quickness and sharp cutting ability has really shown up in space in the passing game. Swift said he can catch 75 passes this season if given the opportunity, and I think that’s a real possibility.”
With quarterback Matthew Stafford under center, Hockenson came in second in total targets for Detroit with 101. Swift was fourth with 57. Former wideout Marvin Jones led the team in targets with 115. And former slot receiver Danny Amendola came in third with 69.
But with veteran receivers like Marvin Jones, Amendola, Kenny Golladay, and Jamal Agnew playing elsewhere in 2021, Goff figures to look to both Hockenson and Swift much more with so many unknowns surrounding the team’s current wide receiver corps.
As for Swift getting the predicted 75 receptions in 2021, that could prove difficult. As a rookie who only started four games last year, he was able to record 46 catches off of his 57 targets. But last season, only two running backs in the entire NFL posted 75 receptions or more. And one of them is a former Lion.
Those two running backs were Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints and J.D. McKissic of the Washington Football Team. Kamara brought in 83 of his107 targets. While McKissic recorded 80 receptions off of 110 targets.
It’s believed D’Andre Swift will be the Detroit Lions’ starter in Week One, so he should get more opportunities in his second season after playing only 38% of the offensive snaps as a rookie. With more snaps, Swift will get more chances to showcase his versatility as a receiver out of the backfield. And considering the state of the team’s wide receiver corps, Jared Goff will likely rely heavily on the 22-year old running back to be a consistent target.