2021 position breakdown: Running backs

The good: Head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes have been in lock step since arriving in Detroit in that they want to build a tough, physical football team on both sides of the ball with the ability to consistently run the football and stop the run defensively.

The Lions put together some numbers in the run game offensively we haven't seen since the late 1990s when Barry Sanders was here. Detroit averaged 110.9 rushing yards per game, and their 4.42 yards per carry average ranked 11th best in the NFL.

D'Andre Swift was terrific in his second season. He was leading all running backs in receptions before a shoulder injury suffered on Thanksgiving prevented him from playing in Detroit's next four contests. Swift returned the last two weeks of the season and scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the season finale. Swift rushed for 617 yards (4.1 average) and five touchdowns and caught 62 passes for 452 yards and another two score.

Williams, a terrific free-agent signing by Holmes, rushed for 601 yards (3.9 average) with three scores. He was the thunder to Swift's lightning in the backfield.

Detroit also got terrific performances from Craig Reynolds, Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson when those youngsters got an opportunity to play. Detroit's backfield has both talent and good depth.

View photos of the Detroit Lions RBs from the 2021 NFL season.

The bad: There's not a whole lot of bad to talk about when it comes to the running back position.

Injuries haven't been a big issue with Swift these first two seasons, but they have come up. He missed three games last year due to injury and four games this season.

Igwebuike had a bit of a fumbling issue toward the end of the season he had to work through. The Lions let him play through it and the hope is those issues are now behind him.

Key stat: The Lions rushed for over 100 yards as a team in 10 contests this season. Only three times all year did they fail to rush for at least 90 yards in a game.

The Lions were the only team in the NFL to have nine players record a rush of 20-or-more yards this season, six of those coming from the running back or fullback position. It marked the first time the Lions have had nine players with a 20-yard rush in a season since at least 1941. The last NFL team to accomplish this was the 1984 Chicago Bears.

Detroit also had three different running backs record a touchdown rush of 25-or-more yards (Swift, Jefferson, Igwebuike).

Free agents: Fullback Jason Cabinda (restricted), Godwin Igwebuike (Exclusive rights).

Cabinda is a fullback/tight end hybrid that played a number of roles and did a lot of the dirty work to help this offense operate. He was voted as an alternate to the Pro Bowl at fullback by his peers, so we know how the other players feel about playing against him.

Igwebuike is a safety the Lions converted to a running back in training camp. He had eight rushes for 118 yards (6.6 avg.) with a touchdown. He caught seven passes for 60 yards (8.6 avg.). He was also Detroit's main kickoff return man, returning 28 kicks for 697 yards (24.9 avg.). Igwebuike is just learning how to be a running back and seems to have a high ceiling.

Draft: I don't expect the Lions to be big players in the running back market in the draft, especially in first few rounds. Detroit's got good depth and talent.

This is a little bit of a down draft class at running back too. There might not be one taken in the first round this year.

Brian Robinson Jr. (Alabama), Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M) and Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State) are the consensus top three available. The Lions will coach Robinson down at the Senior Bowl next month.

MVP: Swift's big-play potential was on display all season long both in the run and pass games. Had he not suffered a shoulder injury that cost him four games, he probably would have led all running backs in receptions.

He's quick and shifty, and has more power than some opponents who underestimate that aspect of his game. He's really the complete package.

Most improved: What a great story Reynolds proved to be at the end of the season. He was signed by Detroit in the preseason and had to introduce himself to his teammates in the huddle on gameday after arriving in Allen Park the day before. He ended up rushing for a touchdown in that debut.

He had a good preseason, which earned him a spot of the practice squad. Reynolds kept getting noticed by coaches on the practice field, so when Swift suffered his injury, and Williams was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, they gave Reynolds his shot. He rushed for 83 yards on 11 carries in Denver Week 14 and busted out for 112 yards on 26 carries in the Week 15 win over Arizona.

From a guy sitting on his couch waiting for a call in the preseason, to rushing for 100 yards against a pretty good Cardinals' defense, it's been quite the ride for Reynolds over the last four months.

Quotable: "I felt like towards the end we just started clicking on all cylinders," Swift said. "We started complementing each other well, defensively and offensively. We started playing off one another. When you do stuff like that, it's complementary football and start to win games."

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