Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson made a declaration in an interview at the start of training camp that the Detroit Lions would have a strong running game.
That has certainly been a yearly goal of head coaches, coordinators, position coaches and players for a number of years.
What we've learned after one game of the regular season is that the Lions have everything required to have a strong, versatile and productive running game. That showed up with 184 yards rushing in a 38-35 loss to the Eagles in the regular-season opener at Ford Field.
Among the other things we learned include the following: In his second season, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is still outperforming players taken ahead of him in the 2021 drat; young players get a chance to play for the Lions; and center Frank Ragnow lived up to a standard he feels has been set by a former Lion to play if at all possible.
We start with the run game:
There might have been some groans when quarterback Jared Goff's pass to running back D’Andre Swift on the first play of the game resulted in a one-yard loss. There were cheers - with more to come – when swift broke off a 50-yard run on second down.
It was a sign of what was to come. Swift ran for 144 yards and a TD. Running back Jamaal Williams added 28 yards and two TDs. Goff, not known for his running, chipped in a 10-yard run.
The next test will come Sunday against Washington as the Lions attempt to even their won-loss record at 1-1. Head coach Dan Campbell feels good about how the Lions have put together a good offensive line.
It starts up front.
"We have a lot of faith in the o-line," he said. "It all stars there. To have a good running game, a lot of different things have to work for you.
"One is the o-line. Two is obviously Goff, getting us in the right play the right checks depending on what we have. And then obviously the running backs.
"The running backs have to be able to finish those thing off. They have to have vision. They have to be able to make people miss. The extra yards are up to you. And lastly receivers blocking downfield, which we have. Those guys showed up.
"Across the board to a man, I thought those receivers did a good job on the perimeter. That's what gets you the explosive runs.
"It goes without saying, Swift is special. We know that. He's the one, He's kind of the secret sauce there. He can turn routine plays into explosive plays that will hurt you."
Keeping score for St. Brown: We probably don't have to do that for St. Brown because we know from experience that he knows the name and draft position of every receiver drafted before the Lions took him in the fourth round last year.
It wouldn't be a surprise if St. Brown compared his performance Sunday to what DeVonta Smith accomplished for the Eagles. Drafted 10th overall in 2021, Smith played 76 of the Eagles' 77 offensive snaps and was targeted four times without a reception.
St. Brown had four targets and two receptions in the first half alone. He was more active in the second half, with eight targets, six catches and one TD. For the game, St. Brown had 12 targets, eight catches and one TD.
Rookie play time: GM Brad Holmes and Campbell draft players for a reason – to play them as soon as they're ready to fill a spot.
It was evident in Sunday's game that draft position – high or low – isn't part of the equation.
Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson, drafted in the first round and second overall, started and played 69 of the 77 defensive snaps, plus six on special teams.
Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, drafted in the sixth round and 188 overall, started and played 46 snaps on defense plus 17 on special teams.
Hutchinson was credited with one assisted tackle. Rodriguez had four solo tackles, two assisted tackles and one tackle for loss.
Standard set: Toward the end of the 2020 season, which proved to be his last as a Lion, Matthew Stafford was asked in a postgame interview why he continued to play with injuries when the Lions were out of playoff contention.
He answered that it was Sunday, and he was the quarterback of the Detroit Lions, and if teammates were playing over injuries then he should do the same as an example to those teammates.
That comment did not fall on deaf ears in the locker room. Ragnow played Sunday after his status had been in doubt because of a groin injury sustained in practice last week.
When he spoke to the media late in the week, Ragnow made reference to Stafford's comments, saying they made an impression on him. Ragnow played all 69 offensive snaps, as did all five starters on the offensive line.