Given the overall limitations of the offense it’s not a big surprise, but the Detroit Lions had one of the league’s highest reception totals from running backs in 2021.
A thin wide receiving corps and a limited quarterback is fuel for a conservative passing game, and the Detroit Lions had those ingredients last season. For a big chunk of the season, before Amon-Ra St. Brown’s emergence late, it was running back D’Andre Swift, tight end T.J. Hockenson and not much else for the Detroit passing attack.
The Lions had their most productive ground game since Barry Sanders played last year. Looking to this year, running back is a position of strength with Swift and Jamaal Williams occupying the top two spots on the depth chart.
Swift missed essentially five games with a shoulder injury, and he had limited work in the two games he played to end the season. But he still finished among the league’s running back leaders in receptions (62) and targets (78), and what he could have done as a pass catcher is another mark in the “what might have been” column for his 2021 campaign.
Detroit Lions had among the most running back receptions in the NFL
Via Tim Twentyman of the Lions’ website, the Lions had the fourth-most receptions from running backs in the NFL last year with 106. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (110), Las Vegas Raiders (108) and Carolina Panthers (107) had more catches from their backs.
Here’s how the total broke down for the Lions. Fullback Jason Cabinda’s four catches were not included.
It’s safe to say the Lions’ running backs would have pretty easily had the most receptions from running backs if Swift had been healthy for even a couple more games. Williams missed four games himself, so more availability from him might have gotten it done too.
The Lions’ offense should be more diverse and unpredictable this year. But the backfield, led by Swift, will still be a very prominent part of the passing game if the unit is to reach its full ceiling.