D’Andre Swift had more rushing yards than all but two players in the NFL last week, but the Detroit Lions still think Swift has more to offer on offense.
“He certainly had a hot start for us we’d like to continue to build on,” Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said Thursday. “We have a vision for how we want to use him. We might not want to share that publicly right now, but no, he’s certainly a big part of our offense.”
Johnson acknowledged Swift can be “maybe a little bit more versatile than what we saw” in last week’s 38-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Swift finished with 15 carries for 144 yards in that game and was targeted three times on passes. He had three receptions for 31 yards and scored his lone touchdown on a fourth-and-1 rush in the red zone.
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Jamaal Williams handled most of the short-yardage red zone work last week, scoring on two 1-yard runs.
Swift missed practice Thursday for the second straight day with a sprained ankle he said he suffered in the first half of the Eagles game. Swift downplayed the injury in an interview with the Free Press on Wednesday, and Johnson said he did not realize Swift was injured and did not adjust his play calling to account for Swift’s ankle last week.
Asked if 18 touches is the kind of workload they want for their lead back, Johnson said, “I think it depends on the week, but certainly I think everyone has said it that’s talked to you guys, everyone knows, players and coaches, when the ball’s in his hands it’s usually a good thing for us.”
The Lions rank fifth in the NFL in rushing after one week, third in third-down percentage (9 of 14 conversions) and were a perfect 5 for 5 in the red zone touchdown opportunities.
Johnson pointed to third down and red zone as two areas that needed improvement during his self-scout of the offense this offseason, and he said he was pleased with the results after one week.
“I think it’s a little bit of mindfulness just for the whole unit, cause the runs are the runs and it’s just, ‘Hey, when we get in here we just got to’ — it might have taken us, call it 12, 10 plays to get down here. We might be a little bit tired, but we’ve got to focus in, maintain our discipline, maintain our technique and will this thing into the end zone,” Johnson said. “And so, I don’t know if that’s a part of it. I don’t think the scheme really has anything to do with that. I think the guys up front, they always get us started. And then, our running backs ran hard.”
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A Buggs life
Isaiah Buggs (three tackles, one pass deflection) played well enough in his Lions debut last week that he could see an increased role on defense going forward.
“He did pop out on the tape,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “So we expect that player to be a huge part of what we’re doing as far as going forward. And man, it is something to see him and Mac (Alim McNeill) in the game at the same time. That’s a lot of beef on the interior now.”
The Lions have been looking for more production out of their interior defensive line, and specifically the spot next to the 325-pound McNeill. Michael Brockers had a pedestrian 2021 with the Lions and did not record a statistic in 28 snaps against the Eagles.
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Buggs, 6 feet 3 and 295 pounds, was an effective interior pass rusher in college who played mostly as a run-stopper in three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Here’s the thing about Buggs that’s intriguing, cause you hear all these things of when he was at Alabama, when he was at Pittsburgh,” Glenn said. “Like we haven’t seen those things. One thing about Buggs, I get a text from Buggs almost every day about how he loves it here. Man, you like when good players say that. And listen, I don’t know what happened at those other places and I don’t really care. The only thing that I care about that he’s happy here and he’s giving us everything that he’s got.”
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.