Detroit Lions: A retooled rushing attack the key to 2020 success

July 27th, 2020 in Lions By Bob Heyrman

The Detroit Lions elected to use three premium draft picks in the 2020 NFL draft on a running back, and a pair of guards as they look to boost their rushing attack.  How will these rookies impact the Lions offense?

It became evident last season that the Detroit Lions needed to address their overall rushing attack.  General manager Bob Quinn certainly focused on trying to improve this aspect of the offense this offseason by interchanging a few pieces along the offensive line.  Quinn was able to identify that Rick Wagner’s play had been rapidly decreasing and decided to release the veteran.

Quinn signed a flexible lineman from the Philadelphia Eagles, Halapoulivaati Vailtai.  Vailtai is capable of playing any position aside from the center spot within the offensive line.  That’s a very valuable asset to have, especially if something were to happen to the teams’ starting left tackle Taylor Decker forcing him to miss multiple weeks.  Vailtai can simply slide over and play left tackle.

Vailtai is a mauling type lineman, he will start at right tackle and will provide the organization with an upgrade over Wagner.  Vailtai is a good run blocker, he may struggle to block speed rushers coming off the edge at times, but the Lions can always chip those rushers with a tight end or a running back to help the big man out.  He’s here to demolish defenders aiding the Lions rushing attack.

The Detroit Lions chose to let Graham Glasgow walk in free agency, a decision I wasn’t too fond of, but Quinn used two picks in the first four rounds of the draft to try and replace the versatile guard.   The Detroit Lions drafted Jonah Jackson out of Ohio State, and then Logan Stenberg from Kentucky.  Both guards are expected to find themselves in a starting role at some point, but due to the shortened offseason, and limited in-game opportunities I expect Joe Dahl to retain his starting job at left guard to start the 2020 season, leaving the pair of rookies to dual over the starting RG position.

After the teams’ lead back Kerryon Johnson landed on the injured reserve list in back-to-back seasons, Detroit decided to draft a plan-B, or what I consider to be a plan-A.  I’m not sure if D’Andre Swift will be taking the first carry of the season for Detroit, but when it’s all said and done, I expect Swift to lead the Lions in all rushing categories in his rookie season.

Swift is a ‘do it all’ back, and the best back we’ve seen in Detroit since the great Barry Sanders.  Swift was a part of a logjam of backs in college with the University of Georgia.  Swift followed Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.  Over his three-year college career, Swift averaged 6.6 yards per carry.  Last season as a junior, Swift ran for 1,218 yards and scored seven rushing touchdowns.  He also chipped in with 216 receiving yards on 24 grabs, including one score.

The Lions need to manage Kerryon’s workload in an attempt at keeping him healthy, and adding a dynamic threat like Swift to a putrid rushing attack from a year ago will turn a weakness on offense into a strength.