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The thought of running behind a healthy Lions o-line makes Swift smile

The question hadn't even finished yet when a huge smile came over Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift's face Thursday morning.

Swift was asked if he and the other running backs on Detroit's roster ever wonder what it could be like this year running behind a healthy offensive line that's expected to be one of the better units in the league this year.

"That crosses my mind at least once a day," Swift said. "Getting Frank back and Deck (Taylor Decker) back healthy, Penei (Sewell) going into his second year, his confidence has been amazing since he's been in the building, so I feel like we are going to be good. If we can stay right up front, we'll be fine."

Staying healthy is the key.

View photos from offseason workouts on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

The Lions played 12 different offensive linemen last season, and their top five – Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Sewell – didn't play a single contest together last year because of injury. Decker missed the first eight games of the season with a finger injury. Ragnow was lost for the season with a foot injury Week 4.

Still, the Lions rushed for 1,886 yards (4.4 average) and 12 touchdowns in 2021, marking the first time Detroit has topped 1,800 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns and maintained a rushing average of at least 4.4 yards since 1998. That speaks to the depth GM Brad Holmes has assembled upfront, and the job offensive line coach Hank Fraley did last year.

Swift topped 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first time in his career last season, rushing for 617 yards (4.1 average) and catching 62 passes for 452 yards with seven combined touchdowns. He missed four games due to injury, after missing three games with injuries his rookie season in 2020.

Swift said he's hit the weight room hard this offseason to improve his strength, and that taking his game to the next level would include playing in every game in 2022.

"I feel like if I'm healthy the sky is the limit," Swift said. "(Running backs coach) Duce (Staley) is going to take me to that level. I trust him. He trusts my ability. The guys around pushing me. We push each other. There's a lot of hidden yardage out there when I watch the tape from last year.

"I'm really critical of myself. I was watching tape the other day, like the first six games (of last year), I feel like I missed a lot of runs. Be more patient, fall forward, run behind my pads a little better, route running being more crisp. All those little details and stuff to work on to take my game to the next level."

There's a lot of excitement in Allen Park around this offensive line unit and how every aspect of the offense can be improved if they can stay healthy and play together.

"I think we can be the best in the league," Jackson said of the offensive line's potential. "I know we can be the best in the league."

Swift knows it too, which is why he's working so hard to improve every aspect of his game, so he can be the beneficiary of that for 17 games this year.

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