Q&A with Barry Sanders: Lions' run game, Campbell's first year as HC & more

LOS ANGELES – Lions Legend Barry Sanders was at the Super Bowl Radio Row Tuesday as the spokesman for the Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes.

He stopped to talk with detroitlions.com on a variety of topics, as follows:

The Lions topped 1,800 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns and maintained a rushing average of at least 4.4 yards per carry for the first time since you were running the football in 1998.

What do you think of the progress they've made becoming more balanced on offense?

Sanders: "I really saw at the end of the season a well-balanced team offensively. I didn't know that stat, but I felt like that was one of the bright spots in the offense this season. Certainly some of the wins and some of the games just looked like, 'OK, it looks like this team has some elements where they could run the ball."

View photos of the Senior Bowl on Feb. 5, 2022 in Mobile, Ala.

What do you like the most about the way RB D'Andre Swift's game is developing heading into his third season?

Sanders: "He's shown he can make that next step. That he can jump from college to pro. He just finished his second year and I've seen some good things from him. It'll be interesting to see if he develops into an every down kind of back. If you're talking about those other pieces, if you can have a good, solid, stable passing game, what does that do for his ability to run? If you can make sure you have other threats around him, I think that could potentially help him even more."

Can Swift be a 1,000-yard rushing back in this league?

Sanders: "I think so with his skillset. His speed. He seems to be pretty slippery and pretty strong for his size. Yeah."

What did you like most about head coach Dan Campbell in his first year as head coach and the staff he's assembled here in Detroit?

Sanders: "I think coach Campbell had some things he can look at in his first year that he can feel good about. Like you said, they don't think they are that many players away, and hopefully those players are out there for us.

"I think (having a staff with a lot of playing experience) and having that kind of perspective and experience in the meeting room and evaluating you on the field, it can only help. Having guys in the meeting room who really understand how the game is played and how that position is played does help. Hopefully going forward we can see the results of that."

Detroit's offensive line could potentially have multiple Pro Bowlers next season, and if that unit is as good as we think it can be, how much does that speed up the rebuild?

Sanders: "Yeah, that's really where it all comes together. That's why this year was kind of an important year. Sometimes it's good to maybe, I don't want to say get kicked around a little bit, but you take some tough losses, but you realize that you're not that far off.

"I mean, these teams that got the better of us this year, we come back bigger and better. I think that's probably the hardest position to play in the league – offensive line. What you have to face game in and game out. So, if you have guys that can solidify your line in that way, then I think your team can jump leaps and bounds. It's about whether you can protect the quarterback and you can create lanes for the running back."

View photos of Detroit Lions guard Jonah Jackson and Detroit Lions Cheerleader Micah at the 2022 Pro Bowl in Las Vegas, NV.

Who is one young player who jumped out to you as having a bright future?

Sanders: "Amon-Ra St. Brown. That's one of those bright spots that you saw. I thought it was a glaring bright spot at the end of the season the stats he put up. He's hungry, and that goes a long ways. That's the kind of attitude you need to really change the culture and change that win-loss. Because again, as we've witnessed, it's not always some big thing. All these games are close. There isn't that much of a difference, for the most part, between upper echelon, middle and bottom teams. There just isn't. So, you got to have that kind of attitude. I love it, man."

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