Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift wasn't utilized a ton as a receiver in college at the University of Georgia the last few seasons. Swift was a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher in 2018 and 2019, and he set the school record for career rushing average (6.6 ypc), but he caught just 24 passes in 14 games last year, and 73 passes total throughout his Bulldog career.
Early observations out of Lions training camp practice in Allen Park are showing that Georgia might have underutilized Swift in the passing game. Swift's looked very crisp as a receiver early on and he excelled in one-on-one passing drills against defenders on Tuesday. His combination of quickness, speed and suddenness has proven to be a tough combination for defenders to lock onto early in camp.
"It kind of started when I was younger playing seven on seven. I always had a great ability just to catch," Swift said of his playmaking ability in the passing game after Tuesday's practice.
"I think I could have been used more at Georgia in the pass game. I just think we found ourselves in just ways to win a game, so we just kind of handed off the ball and went the grinding way a little bit. That's something I definitely want to perfect at this level of football, being used in different amount of ways."
It's yet to be determined just what Swift's role will be in offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's scheme. It's certainly expected to be significant after the Lions spent a second-round draft pick on him this offseason. He's projected to share the backfield with Kerryon Johnson and others, but he could earn himself a bigger role in the passing game if he continues to excel in that area in training camp.
J.D. McKissic was Detroit's third-down back last season, but he left in free agency for Washington. He led all Detroit backs with 34 receptions last year, followed by returning second-year back Ty Johnson with 24.
The top three running backs in the NFL last season in terms of receptions were Christian McCaffrey (116), Austin Ekeler (92) and Alvin Kamara (81). With how Bevell likes to distribute the ball to all of his skill-position weapons, especially those on the outside at wide receiver, reaching those kinds of reception numbers is probably unrealistic for a Lions back.
"I always took pride in anything getting out of the backfield, playing mismatches against linebackers and just get into open space, making people miss and running crisp routes and catching the ball," Swift said. "It's kind of always something I like to do."
If he continues to show a knack for that part of the game throughout training camp, Bevell will find ways to get him the ball, whether that's handing it to him or throwing it to him.