New Lions RB Adrian Peterson an easy fit

While coach Matt Patricia wouldn’t say, don’t be surprised to see newest the Lions running back Adrian Peterson on the field on Sunday in the home opener against the Chicago Bears.

“We’ll see, it’s Monday, he just got here, so we’ll see how everything goes,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom conference call on Labor Day.

The Lions announced the signed Peterson, a 35-year-old free agent, on Monday. He had been released by the Washington Redskins on Friday. 

“Glad to see him in our uniform — saw him too many years in purple and gold and he was doing his thing against us,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said on a Zoom call. “Nice to have him. Obviously a really talented player, one of the greats at the position. I think he raises the bar for a lot of people just to go out there and watch the way this guy works at the age he is and what he’s accomplished.’’

Certainly Peterson’s familiarity with Darrell Bevell, the Vikings offensive coordinator at the time who is now with the Lions, played a factor. The two worked together from 2007-10. 

“It was a great part, kind of a perfect storm to get him here. Being so familiar with Bev’s offense and obviously being very productive in that offense,’’ Patricia said.

As a rookie, Peterson set an NFL game record when he rushed for 296 yards against the Chargers.

“So that’s always a good draw when you have that kind of production in an offensive scheme,’’ Patricia said.

“Being familiar with the type of offense we run, for him to be able to come in without a training camp, step right in and hopefully try to contribute I think it’s a big factor, it gave us a little bit of an advantage,’’ the coach added.

That was a few years back, but Peterson’s production the past two seasons was 898 rushing yards (2019) and 1,042 in 2018. He averaged 4.3 and 4.2 yards per carry. In his 13-year career he’s averaged 4.7 yards per carry — an absolute gaudy number compared to what any Lions’ running back has accomplished since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders averaged 5.0 yards per carry.

Peterson’s experience in the running backs room should also prove valuable. Kerryon Johnson enters his third season and only played in 18 games total, eight of them in 2019. D’Andre Swift, a second-round pick, is a rookie. (Bo Scarborough was placed on injured reserve.)

“I think it’s always great to see young players see vets who have been in the league a long time, see how they approach game week, how they approach preparation, how they practice and how they perform,’’ Patricia said. “That’s a big part of younger players developing and becoming professional at this level right out of college.’’

While Swift and Johnson have had some injuries during training camp, Patricia said that is not why the decision to sign Peterson was made.

“With Adrian Peterson it was kind of Independent of everything else going on,’’ Patricia said.

While Lions fans are quite familiar with Peterson, here are the career stats that he has run up — 3,036 rushing attempts for 14,216 yards (4.7 avg.) and 111 touchdowns, ranking eighth in NFL history in attempts, fifth in yards and fourth in rushing touchdowns. The 2012 NFL MVP, Peterson has been named AP All-Pro seven times, has been selected to seven Pro Bowls, was a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team and rushed for an NFL single-game record 296 yards on Nov. 4, 2007.

Lions rookie RB D’Andre Swift could also play factor in pass game

In two days, Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift has found a certain level of comfort on the practice field which isn’t easy for a rookie.

Certainly the second-round draft pick has plenty to work on and improve. 

“Just getting everything down as far as the playbook, different terminology, quarterbacks speak faster, signals come quicker, just taking my studying habits and taking my knowledge of the game to the next level to make sure the coaches trust me,’’ Swift said on Tuesday in a Zoom call.

Coach Matt Patricia doesn’t like to talk starters or where a rookie might fit on a depth chart. It’s too early for that.

Still when Patricia was asked on Tuesday if Swift has a chance to start, he nodded in the affirmative. So far he likes what he sees from the back who played college ball at Georgia, Matthew Stafford’s alma mater.

“For me, for Swift obviously I think he’s got a great skill set of what we saw in college. We’re exploring the different things he can do certainly at our level and to do it consistently is a big thing for us right now,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom call late Tuesday afternoon.

To translate: Swift has turned a few heads as a pass catcher early in camp.

“I think some of the different reads in the run game right now we’re trying to get improved for him and his eye control and some of those scenarios,’’ Patricia said. “We do know that he’s a smart guy and he can handle a lot, not only in the run game but the pass protection and being able to get the blitz pickups and some of the technique there. Some of the linebackers at this level are maybe bigger than they were in college and some of those guys going through there, so the technique is really important for us to make sure we have that pocket protected.’’

Patricia said he wants to build on things Swift can do in the passing game.

“Not that it’s small steps, but we try to make sure we build it in the proper manner. So far he’s done an outstanding job of handling all that,” Patricia said. “And then certainly as we get towards more and more live contact in the running back position and being able to have really good contact balance, things like we saw in college, being able to break some of those tackles. The more of those scenarios that we can get into and see and have that confidence in certainly that will help him along the way.’’

Swift said when he played 7-on-7 football as a kid, he discovered his ability to catch the ball. 

The Bulldogs didn’t exploit that part of his game. In three seasons he had just 20 catches, but five of them were for touchdowns.

“It’s something I want to definitely perfect at this level of football just being used in different amounts of ways,’’ Swift said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Jeff Okudah expected to start, but on first day with pads he lines up with reserves

Lions open season on Sept. 13 against Bears

Don’t read much into the fact that cornerback Jeff Okudah, the  Lions first-round draft pick, lined up with the reserves in the team’s first padded practice on Monday.

In the most uncommon of training camps, it’s not an uncommon move by coach Matt Patricia.

“The rookies, we’re trying to take it slow with. There’s a lot of information that they have to learn and certainly being on the field for the first time in an NFL practice with pads on,’’ Patricia said on Monday via Zoom. “There’s just a lot coming at those guys from different directions.’’

Okudah, the third overall pick, was not drafted to sit on the bench. With Patricia, though, he’ll have to earn it and compete for the role.

“Always, you know how I am with the whole starters thing. I don’t know who our starters are in Day One of pads,’’ Patricia said. “I’m pretty sure Matthew Stafford is good, the rest of that stuff we’ll figure out.’’

Patricia noted that cornerback Amani Oruwariye has been working hard, Justin Coleman too and obviously Desmond Trufant who signed as a free agent after Darius Slay left.

“We’ll see how it shakes out,’’ Patricia said.

So far the coach, entering his third season with the Lions, seems happy with Okudah in the early goings.

“Jeff is working really hard, he’s trying to do everything. He’s learning our system which is great and competing. We’ll rotate that as we go through with different looks and different packages,’’ Patricia said.

Overall he seemed happy with the first padded practice. 

“It was a really competitive day which was very pleasing for me. We talked yesterday that we’re four weeks out from yesterday before our first game. I do feel a little bit like ‘Oh man, we’ve got to go, we’ve got to get all this stuff in, we’ve got to get rolling.’

“We wake up this morning and we’re going out for a 90-minute practice because that’s all we’re allowed to do. So you’re just trying to scheme it and put it together so it moves as fast as possible. I thought the team really answered that bell,’’ Patricia said.

The Lions open their season on Sept. 13 at home against the Chicago Bears. All NFL preseason games have been eliminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That makes every minute on the field crucial.

“I could be out there for another six hours just working on fundamentals — pad level, hand placement and footwork,’’ Patricia said. “I’m excited just to see guys trying to do it right. The key will be to go out tomorrow and improve on what we did today.’’