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'He ran really hard': Lions rookie D'Andre Swift unleashes full potential in breakout game

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Jacksonville, Fla. — If you tuned into the Detroit Lions' previous game, the loss to the New Orleans Saints before a bye week, you could sense a breakout was on the horizon for rookie running back D'Andre Swift. 

Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he needed exactly one carry to turn that feeling into a reality. Taking a handoff late in the first quarter, Swift shot through a hole between center Frank Ragnow and right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Swift was finally brought down 54 yards later, the longest run by a Detroit back in nearly two seasons, kick-starting a 116-yard, two-touchdown performance on the ground in Sunday's 34-16 victory.

Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift, left, is tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Joe Schobert after a short gain during the first half Sunday.

"I think he ran really hard," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "He ran physical, which was great to see. We know what a great player he is. We've been talking about it for a while, there are certain things he can do that give opponents a problem."

Swift, selected 35th overall in this year's draft, has been playing catch-up since training camp. A hamstring injury cost him significant practice time during an offseason where it was already in short supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And Swift suffered a big setback in the season opener when he dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown in the closing minute. But the team's confidence in the youngster, as well as his confidence in himself, was never rattled. 

"I know that's not me as a player," Swift said. "I'm just showing everybody else that."

He left little doubt about the way he could impact the game on Sunday. His two scores give him three on the season, tied with T.J. Hockenson for the team lead.

Not surprisingly, there are also still some hiccups. For example, for the second time in as many games, he wasn't on the same page as Matthew Stafford, running a different route than the quarterback anticipated, resulting in an incompletion. 

"There were some really great plays out there today, a couple plays I’m sure he wants back," Stafford said. "There was one miscommunication between he and I in the pass game that we’d like to have back, but the thing I like about him is just nothing really fazes him. You know, he made a mistake like that and just keeps it moving and knows he going to make great plays later in the game."

The biggest question coming out of Sunday's game is whether Swift's impressive performance demands an even greater role in the offense going forward. That wasn't something Patricia was willing to commit to just minutes after the game. 

"I'm just proud of the guys for winning today," Patricia said. "We're not going to go bigger than that right now. I think we all had a long conversation a couple years ago with Kerryon (Johnson) earlier in the year, what he was doing well, and I tried to explain to everybody that it's a long season. It's a long season for rookie running backs and all the different looks that they get. From that standpoint, we're just going to keep trying to do what we can do to keep the run game going."

Powered by the 54-yard gain, Swift is now averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the young season, and his three catches against the Jaguars give him 16 on the year. 

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers