The handcuffs are the same around the league. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the early portion of the NFL offseason into a virtual environment, and it won't be until the third week of August until teams will finally get a look at their rookie class on the practice field.
With the season-opener approximately three weeks later, and no preseason games, the evaluation period for those first-year players will be as small as ever. That's the unfortunate reality, but Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has found a silver lining with how things have played out thus far.
"All our rookies coming in, I mean (they’re) definitely going to be behind the eight ball a little bit," Bevell said. "The Zoom meetings I think have helped. We’ve had more meeting time than we’ve ever had. In terms of the information, I think they’re going to be able to handle some of that."
Lions coaches and teammates have generally spoken glowingly about how the current crop of rookies have handled themselves in the virtual meetings and running back D'Andre Swift hasn't been an exception.
"Certainly very excited to have him in the building," Lions coach Matt Patricia said about Swift. "Certainly, from the running back position with a rookie, there’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot to go over, a lot of information. We did as much as we could virtually there. But it would be good to see that in live practice reps and to see the reaction time to that, not only when he has the ball in his hand, but when he doesn’t, and be able to get in to different positions and see defenses and recognize some of the things we do in the NFL that may be a little bit different for him. But really hard-working guy.
The Lions selected Swift early in the second round of the draft. In three seasons at Georgia, he averaged 6.6 yards per carry, showcased polished receiving skills coming out of the backfield and scored 25 touchdowns.
The expectation is he'll form a versatile and potent tandem with last year's starter, Kerryon Johnson, with the duo being situationally complemented by a combination of Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson and fellow rookie Jason Huntley.