Among the Lions whose deals just expired, does anybody have a murkier future than Travis Swanson? The fourth-year center has started 43 of 54 career games but both his 2016 and 2017 campaigns were ended due to concussions. While he sat out the final three games of this past season, Graham Glasgow performed admirably as a fill-in and may have done enough to be considered the future at the position. Furthermore, a new head coach and a new offensive line coach could portend a philosophical change in Detroit.
|Scout Name (Last, First)
FA (Detroit Lions)
|2017 – ankle (Weeks 3-5, missed one game), knee (Weeks 13-14, missed one game) concussion (Weeks 15-17, missed three games, ended season on IR)
2016 – concussion (Weeks 14-WC, missed five games)
2015 – ankle (Weeks 13-14, missed one game), shoulder (Week 17, IR)
2014 – N/A
|2017 – 709 offensive snaps, 1 false start, 2 holding penalties, 1 sack allowed (-1 yard)
2016 – 766 offensive snaps, 3 holding penalties, 2 sacks allowed (-13 yards)
|2017: 9/18 at NYG, 10/1 at MIN, 10/8 vs. CAR, 12/10 at TB
Swanson has been a solid fit in the Lions’ zone-heavy run scheme the past couple of seasons. He’s a good athlete that takes optimal angles and has plus lateral quickness to cross face against playside 1-techs. Loose hips allow him to swivel into seal-off position and create creases for his backs. He handles himself well in space, as he moves fluidly and takes keen paths to his targets. The duo runs the Lions incorporated as a change up saw him demonstrate solid timing off combo blocks before releasing into the second level.
This fluidity was evident in his pass protection, too. Good lateral quickness and change of direction ability makes him well-equipped to stymie quick interior rushers and respond to counters and stunts. His recovery ability is nice because he has the balance to recover when he overextends himself and begins to tilt. He has long arms and large hands that he uses to secure the opponent’s breastplate and reset as needed. A very good mental processor, Swanson plays with active eyes in pass protection and consistently identifies and neutralizes threats. It’s also nice that he gives steady effort throughout games and plays through the whistle.
Unfortunately, Swanson lacks the functional strength to make the most of his smarts and short area quickness. He exceeds positional baselines for weight but he has a top-heavy frame with below average trunk thickness and thin ankles. He gets solid explosion off the line when drive blocking but doesn’t snap his hips into contact and often fails to hold the point of attack, much less generate movement up front. And when he fails to cross face on zone runs, he frequently finds himself being carried into the rush track, particularly on outside zone.
Slide protections proved to be a chore for him, as he’d work himself into a narrow base when setting wide to pickup 3-techs or delayed blitzers. Powerful interior players gave him fits with their bull rushes, as his ability to anchor was below average at best. This issue is made worse when you consider his hands are slow and he has wide aiming points, which exposes his chest and gives defenders an opportunity to take control early. It was a problem at the second level too, as swift-handed backers could stick him and go before he had a chance to secure. Furthermore, his initial punch lacks oomph and won’t knock defensive tackles off course. Finally, he does a good job of finding work but he doesn’t have the power to be a rib-splitter and won’t capsize defenders engaged with his comrades.
At the end of the day, his lack of strength bleeds into too many otherwise positive areas. His length, athleticism, and football smarts are all plus traits but he just doesn’t have enough sand in his pants to cut it. I have him pegged as a starter you can win in spite of and I think he’d fit best in a zone-heavy scheme to maximize his skill set. Which is to say that if the Lions are plotting a scheme change, Swanson would be best-served elsewhere.