The New England Patriots run defense has struggled as of late, and the challenges it will face will not become any easier. Their upcoming opponent, the Detroit Lions, has one of the most potent ground games in the entire league.
However, it appears the Patriots might be catching a break. According to a report by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Lions running back D’Andre Swift is unlikely to play on Sunday due to a nagging shoulder injury.
Despite already having to sit out last week’s game, Swift is still ranked second on the Lions with 308 yards from scrimmage. A viable dual-threat, he has carried the ball 27 times for 231 yards — an average of 8.6 yards per attempt — as well as a touchdown; he also has caught eight passes for 77 yards and another score.
With him out, Detroit will continue to rely on Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds and Justin Jackson. Williams in particular is worth keeping an eye on: the Lions’ leading rusher, he has 62 rushing attempts through four games for 276 yards and a team-high six touchdowns.
While Detroit’s running game can therefore still not be underestimated, Swift not playing would be welcome news for a Patriots defense that has given up 188 yards to the Baltimore Ravens and 199 to the Green Bay Packers in back-to-back weeks. New England is currently ranked 29th in the NFL in yards given up per rushing attempt (5.1) and expected points added (0.119), while also ranking 31st in DVOA (13.5%).
“We obviously want to do better stopping the run, because if we can make the offense one-dimensional it’s a lot easier for us,” safety Adrian Phillips said earlier this week. “That’s when we really get to spin and dial, and send whatever we got. So, we have to be able to stop the run on early downs to get them in third-and-long situations.”
Swift was not present at practice on both Wednesday — one of 10 Lions out for the session. He also was not spotted early on Thursday, alongside wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown (ankle) and Quintez Cephus (foot).