WESTFIELD, IND. — D’Andre Swift has a lofty goal in mind for the 2022 NFL season, one few running backs have accomplished before.
Swift said Wednesday on the first day of joint practices between the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts that his aim for this season is to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving.
Just three backs in NFL history have reached that milestone in the same season: Christian McCaffrey in 2019, Marshall Faulk in 1999 and Roger Craig in 1985.
“I know that (it’s a rare feat),” Swift said. “I know with (running backs coach) Duce (Staley), the way he coaches me and how I know what I can bring to this team, it can be done.”
Swift led the Lions with 617 yards rushing last season and finished second on the team with 62 catches (for 452 yards), but he faces several obstacles in his pursuit of history.
The third-year back out of Georgia has missed seven games in his first two NFL seasons with an assortment of injuries. The Lions have historically managed his reps with an eye on trying to keep him healthy for the stretch run. And few running backs are in the exclusive 1,000-yard receiving club.
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McCaffrey in 2019 was the last back to top 1,000 yards receiving. Austin Ekeler led all running backs with 647 yards receiving last season.
Swift, who has 1,138 yards rushing and 809 yards receiving in his first 26 NFL games, has split first-team reps with Jamaal Williams throughout training camp but is as healthy now as he’s ever been midway through the summer.
Last year, Swift practiced sparingly in camp because of a groin injury, something Lions coach Dan Campbell said contributed to him wearing down physically late in the year.
Swift, who missed four games last season with a sprained shoulder, is not expected to play in the Lions’ final two preseason games, Saturday against the Colts or next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but is on track for a full workload Week 1 against his hometown Philadelphia Eagles.
He said he feels primed for a big season this fall in part because of the push he’s gotten from Staley, a former NFL running back who was known for his dual-threat ability as a player.
“He’s pushing me to my limits,” Swift said. “He’s pushing me to my limits in every which way. Learning coverages, learning defenses, just detailing my work on and off the field so when I see it in a game I’ve done seen it before in practice. One of the best coaches I’ve been around to play for.”
Staley has forged a tough-love relationship with Swift in their 19 months together, one that was on display in this week’s episode of the HBO docuseries “Hard Knocks.”
In one personnel meeting, Staley told Lions coaches and executives, “I need Swift to believe he’s the best every time he steps on the (expletive) field.” Later, in a position meeting, Staley told Swift he can be the best running back in the NFL.
“Listen to me … you can be the best in this league, you really can,” Staley said. “But what you’ve got to do is this — you got to have that dog mentality, you got to bring that (expletive) out of you.
“Be hungry, be greedy for every (expletive) yard.”
Swift said he appreciates Staley’s coaching and called Staley “the type of coach that’s going to push me to my limits and that’s the type of coach that I need.”
“Swift’s got thick skin, and he wants to be good, he wants to be great,” Campbell said. “And so listen, he can handle it and all of the above and if we didn’t think he could we wouldn’t do it. If we didn’t think he could be the player that we think he can be we wouldn’t be as hard on him. But he’s always been receptive, he’s always put in the work, and so he’s going to be just fine.”
Whether he puts up dual 1,000-yard seasons or not, the Lions are counting on Swift to be a major part of their offense this fall.
Swift said he takes Staley’s declaration that he can be the best running back in the NFL “very serious,” and he said he sees the same greatness in himself.
“Same thing. Nothing less,” he said. “Just got to go out there and be consistent, that’s all.”