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Silver Linings: What Lions Can Look Forward To In 2022

  • Jack McKessy
  • August 1, 2022
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If you’re a Detroit Lions fan, there’s a ton to be excited about going into the 2022 season, even after a 2021 season that featured just three wins and one tie. There’s the late-season breakout of receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. There’s the potential of cornerback Jeff Okudah back healthy and finally getting his first full NFL season under his belt.

But one of the biggest things to look forward to is the continued emergence of a two-headed backfield of running backs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams.

There was a lot going wrong with the 2021 Lions. The loss of star receiver Kenny Golladay in free agency seemed to hold Detroit’s offense back for most of the early season, as did the trade that sent away long-time face of the franchise Matthew Stafford. On the other side of the ball, the scoring defense was the second-worst in the NFL last season and the Lions were in the bottom 10 of defensive takeaways. No player had more than 7.5 sacks or 10 tackles for a loss.

At the same time, the running backs were doing things right.

After Swift put together a strong rookie season in 2020 with eight rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns, and 878 yards from scrimmage, he came back for year two and built on that success. He finished the 2021 season with five rushing touchdowns, two receiving scores, and topped 1,000 all-purpose yards. Along the way, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per reception, with his patience, agility, quick cuts, and great hands all flashing and bringing him and the Lions success.

It became clear last season that Swift is one of—if not the—most important parts of the Lions’ offensive core going forward. He led the team in touches, rushing yards, and total touchdowns, and he was fourth on the team in receiving yards (including a team-leading 502 yards after catch). St. Brown deserves a ton of credit for the name he made for himself late in the season, but Swift was literally and figuratively carrying the offense for the first 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, Swift hasn’t even been the Lions’ primary starter in his first two seasons as a pro. Over his first two years, he played in 26 games and started in just eight of them with Adrian Peterson being the starter in Detroit in 2020 and Williams starting 11 games in 2021. That isn’t a knock on Swift, who is clearly talented, but it’s because of the talent that Peterson and Williams brought to Detroit.

There’s plenty out there about how great Peterson’s career is (was?), and his one year with the Lions was successful too. But Williams has been a great addition to the Lions’ backfield since the team signed him to a two-year deal last offseason.

In his first year with the Lions after coming over from the Green Bay Packers in free agency, Williams set career highs in starts (11) and rushing yards (601) while matching a career-high in carries with 153. He made some contributions as a receiver as well, finishing 2021 with 157 receiving yards on 26 catches.

So while Swift is clearly the guy the Lions have leaned on out of the backfield, Williams has also proven himself to be an important part of their offense as well. It remains to be seen whether he’ll see fewer touches in his second year in Detroit as Swift continues to develop and excel at the pro level, but he’ll certainly still see a fair share of looks in 2022.

Things are really starting to look up for the Lions as the 2022 season approaches. They have a good offensive line, an exciting second year coming for St. Brown, and some exciting prospects in edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and receiver Jameson Williams. But if there’s one thing that Detroit and their fans can rely on being a success story in 2022, it’s their Swift-Williams backfield continuing to stand out behind a strong offensive line.

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Jack McKessy