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Eagles Film Review: Should D’Andre Swift be back?

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By: Jonny Page

Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

It’s the NFL offseason, so, it’s time to get into the Eagles’ upcoming free agents before we get into draft season. This time, I’m going to look at D’Andre Swift who signed for the Eagles last year.

Previously: Haason Reddick review.

Stats

  • The basic numbers look really good but some of the underlying ones are not great.
  • I’m a little surprised he ranked 18th in explosive rate considering how good the offensive line was. I was hoping he would be in the top 10 considering his style.
  • Ranking 48th in yards after contact isn’t great, but it’s also not shocking considering Swift’s running style. He ranked 14th in missed tackles forces which highlights his style.
  • I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in running back stats. So I don’t really know how this is measured. But ranking 37th in ‘Rushing Yards over Expectation per attempt’ doesn’t feel great, does it?

Strengths

I’m not going to do strengths and weaknesses like I normally would do with a new signing, because I broke down D’Andre Swift last year! You can read it here. I’m going to use some of the same comments from last year’s review but update the article with some clips from this year and update them if I feel I need to.

+ He is one of the most explosive backs you will see. He looks like he is shot out of a cannon at times. He beats people frequently with his acceleration. He doesn’t slow down when he has to slightly change direction or when catching the football.

+ He’s well built for his size and may not be a power runner, but he can run through poor arm tackles without slowing down and stiff arm defenders away from him.

+ He’s outstanding in space, especially on short passes and screens. His burst and acceleration are fantastic when he has room to run into.

+ Outstanding agility, especially in tight spaces. His footwork is outstanding and he can burst in different directions with ease.

+ His use of tempo is fantastic. You see defenders take bad angles so frequently and it’s because he can stop and start on a dime. His tempo combined with his elite acceleration to burst past defenders.

+ He’s a great route runner and will be a nightmare for any linebacker. He’s really good on angle routes but he has the speed to run wheel routes too.

+ He’s not just an outside runner who needs space and he shows vision and nuance on inside carries to follow his blocks and find gaps.

+ Came from an offense that runs a variety of gap/zone and from shotgun/under center. He is versatile.

Weaknesses

– I had this as a strength last year

“More than willing as a pass protector. You don’t want him pass protecting that often, but he can do it.”

I would change my opinion after watching him this year. I don’t think he’s a great pass protector at all.

– Isn’t the type of back to fall forward and push a pile. He’s not built to be a ‘foundational’ back. He’s a ‘feature’ back at best.

– He can be guilty of doing too much at times. Sometimes there’s an obvious lane with blockers in front and he will try to do the impossible.

– He doesn’t have elite ‘wiggle’. He’s more straight-line fast and won’t always make defenders miss one-on-one unless he has speed already built up. He’s not like a Shady McCoy who would break ankles with his jukes in the backfield.

– I’ve stolen this one from the legend Jimmy Kempski, but Swift always seems to get worse as the season progresses. The numbers back this up.

– I don’t understand what happened to him in the receiving game. 23 of his 39 receptions came in the first 6 weeks of the season.

-Injury history the past 3 years has obviously impacted his career. Some interesting data here via Draft Sharks, who define him as having a ‘very high risk’ of injury next year.

Overall

So, it’s fair to say that I got the Eagles’ running back rotation very wrong last year. I expected Swift and Rashaad Penny to be a 1a/1b style of attack. That didn’t happen, did it? I still think my analysis was pretty fair on Swift. I think Swift is an explosive as they come, but is not as dominant on a per-snap basis as you would like from an outstanding running back and he can be a frustrating watch at times.

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with his film once again. My goodness. Swift is one of the most explosive running backs you will see and he is the perfect fit for the Eagles. He is basically a better, more explosive version of Kenny Gainwell. I like Gainwell, but watch the two side by side and it’s not close. Swift is just more explosive.

I’m a big believer in powerful running backs on early downs who can break tackles (it’s just my philosophy) so I wouldn’t want Swift to be my ‘foundational’ or starting running back. Pairing him with Rashaad Penny is just perfect. I expect Penny to take most of the early down work and Swift to be on the field on every 3rd down. It is such an awesome backfield (if they are both healthy of course). I could see Penny taking about 55% of the carries and Swift having around 35% with 5-7 targets per game. The Eagles haven’t targeted their running backs much in recent years but… the Eagles haven’t had D’Andre Swift in recent years. He’s so much better than Sanders out of the backfield. I wonder if the Eagles will use more 2-back sets with both Penny and Swift on the field too, and then motion Swift to wide receiver.

So would I re-sign Swift? I would not unless the Eagles can get him back on a cheap 1-year deal. I do like Swift, and I’m not opposed to him returning, I just think the Eagles need to be careful about overspending on a running back who is not in the elite tier of backs.

If a team is going to pay Swift the type of deal and money that Miles Sanders got last year then I would pass. Miles Sanders got 4 years $25m with $13m guaranteed. I bet they regret that deal.

Spotrac have Swift predicted to get 4 years $27m which would pay him as the 8th best running back on a per-year basis. I am not sure that Swift is good enough to be paid as a top-10 talent at the position. I would assume the guaranteed money would look similar to Sanders in this case, and I think Swift is a more talented back, so I wouldn’t want to commit more than $13m to him. I think Swift is an extremely talented back who fits the offense well, so I can see why the Eagles staff would want to bring him back.

If the Eagles do decide to bring back Swift, I would hope they are looking at a 1 year ‘prove it’ style deal where they don’t cause cap problems down the line. Josh Jacobs got 1 year $11m last year and I think he’s a far better back than Swift, so I would guess the Eagles could get Swift for a bit less than that. I think Swift is a really good player, and I completely admit that I am biased in the type of running back I want the Eagles to build around and Swift just isn’t my type. If Swift is back, I hope that doesn’t stop the Eagles from adding a talented back in the draft either.

Originally posted on Bleeding Green Nation