The Detroit Lions have a new offensive philosophy under Anthony Lynn, who will call the plays as the offensive coordinator for the team in Dan Campbell's first year. Thanks to a young and improving offensive line, running the ball will be a priority in Detroit -- especially with a second-year back in D'Andre Swift.
Will Swift be the primary ball-carrier in 2021? Lynn may have other plans for his dynamic weapon in the backfield, using free agent addition Jamaal Williams in a much more significant role than they envisioned.
"Jamaal is what I'd call a classic 'A' back," Lynn told Chris Burke and Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic. "I like to break the backs down into 'A' and 'B'. My 'A' backs are normally my bigger backs. They can run between the tackles, block probably a little better than a 'B' back, they can also run the perimeter. I can leave those guys in there for all three downs."
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Is Williams the featured back in Detroit over Swift, specifically if Lynn thinks he can play all three downs? Williams hasn't been the No. 1 back for the Green Bay Packers for a few years as Aaron Jones has received the most carries for the team in each of the past three seasons. Williams still has been productive in a No. 2 role, having 500 carries for 1,985 yards and 10 touchdowns (4.0 yards per carry) in 60 games (20 starts). He also has 122 catches for 961 yards and eight touchdowns (7.9 yards per reception). The Lions signed Williams to a two-year, $6 million contract this offseason -- enough money to give him an opportunity to become a No. 1 running back.
What about Swift? The 2020 second-round pick finished with 114 carries for 521 yards and eight touchdowns with 46 receptions for 357 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games for the Lions last year. Still just 22 years old, Detroit still has plans for Swift as the 'B' back -- even though it doesn't appear he'll be receiving the bulk of the carries in 2021.
"My 'B' back comes in, he's a guy that sometimes I want to use in space more," Lynn said. "He's my speed-in-space guy. I feel like Jamaal would be an outstanding 'A' back. I like his energy, I like his pad level and the way he runs the football between the tackles."