Week 6 in Jacksonville, Detroit Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift rushed 14 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first Lions rookie since Barry Sanders in 1989 to produce a game with 100 rushing yards and two scores.
Sanders quickly became a household name as a rookie in Detroit and eventually a Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever do it. Sanders paid pretty close attention to Swift's rookie campaign, and he thinks Swift has a good chance to be 'the guy' in Detroit's backfield for a long time.
"I thought it was a solid rookie campaign," Sanders said of Swift Tuesday while promoting Rocket Mortgage's Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes for Super Bowl XL. "Couple 100-yard games. I think he showed he adjusted well to the NFL game and NFL speed. You would think he would figure into any plans going forward and maybe establish himself as the guy."
The Lions are expected to feature their rushing attack more under new head coach Dan Campbell and new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.
"Of course I want to run the football because there's a mentality about it," Campbell said in his introductory press conference. "There's a physicality about it."
That sounds like good news for a player like Swift, who could be a big part of the Lions' offense in 2021, both as a runner and pass catcher.
Swift had a solid rookie campaign, rushing for 521 yards (4.6 avg.) and eight touchdowns, while catching 46 passes for 357 yards (7.8 avg.) and two more scores. Swift's 10 total touchdowns tied for the fourth most by a rookie in 2020. He missed three games due to injury.
"I think D'Andre Swift should be proud of his rookie campaign," Sanders said. "That's always a big lesson for most guys that first year. Just seeing NFL defenses, players and that kind of thing. It can be kind of mind blowing at times, but it's about just going back and really being as hungry next year and just to continue to get stronger, better, faster and seeing what things you need to improve on. But I think he was a solid pick, (had a) solid year and he should be very helpful and (even) better moving forward."
Swift's season got off to a somewhat rocky start, first missing a lot of training camp due to injury, and then dropping a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of a Week 1 loss to Chicago. But Swift said this week he learned a lot from that play and he became a better player having gone through it.
"That play definitely made me better," Swift said in an interview with Good Morning Football. "Just getting back to the fundamentals first and foremost. Catching balls after practice, getting with quarterbacks and getting that chemistry better.
"I normally don't drop passes like that, so I knew that wasn't me. Just getting that confidence back and once I started to play more I got a little more comfortable and I did things to prevent that situation again."
Swift, a second-round pick by the Lions a season ago, is expected to be featured in Detroit's backfield in 2021, after the team had more of a running-back-by committee approach with last year's coaching staff.
We typically see a huge leap in production in a player's second season, and the Lions certainly hope that will be the case for Swift.