How the Detroit Lions might handle running backs if D'Andre Swift can or can't play

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ALLEN PARK, Michigan -- D’Andre Swift has barely practiced in two weeks. He recovered from a concussion -- and as soon as he was cleared Thursday, he was held out of practice on Thursday and Friday due to an illness. Even if Swift does play against Chicago on Sunday, and he’s listed as questionable, his role for the Detroit Lions will equal that of his game status.

Even interim head coach Darrell Bevell, who also runs the offense, said Swift’s role -- if he plays -- will be a limited one.

“It’d just go back to a smaller package for him,” Bevell said. “He’s been in meetings. He’s been in-and-out, coaches have been in communication with him, he’s been on some Zoom stuff. We just have to see, as far as the game plan-specific stuff.

“It would be very specific so that he could go out there and play fast like I talk about.”

That Bevell is referring to going back to a smaller package could mean Swift's role Sunday could look more like it did at the start of the season, when he was working his way into the lineup coming off a training camp injury.

In his first four games, Swift typically took 20 to 30 snaps -- taking out the game plan for Arizona in Week 3 in which Swift barely played -- and had a handful of carries and ran 10 to 20 routes. Yes, Swift’s role has increased since then, and there’s no reason to believe once he’s able to practice again his role won’t go back to the big one it had become, but Bevell is going to be smart with him.

“We’re going to continue to take this through the end of the week,” Bevell said. “We’ll see how he continues to react to things.”

No matter if Swift plays or not, this likely means more of a continued role for Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson. Johnson saw his biggest workload of the season against Houston, with 11 carries, and with Swift out the past two games Johnson has topped 35 snaps each week after playing fewer than 20 in all but one game prior.

Peterson also received his biggest workload in a month on Thanksgiving, with 15 carries -- and he was the team’s goal-line back, scoring two touchdowns. But even with Swift out, Peterson's snaps haven’t increased much -- he has played 20 or fewer snaps in each of the past six games. Jonathan Williams played some on Thanksgiving, but it’s tough to see him being a factor unless Detroit is up or down big.

Swift would be more likely to cut into Johnson's workload, in part because of the skill set he has and the potential to use him in two-minute and third-down situations as a pass catcher. However, Johnson would still trend toward the back with more potential Sunday, although Peterson could continue to have a goal-line role, which for fantasy purposes might make him valuable to play.