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Looking at the Detroit Lions offensive line: Week 2

Because it's a lot more fun to show the misses than the makes: Larry Warford whiffing. Part of a rough run blocking day for him

Because it’s a lot more fun to show the misses than the makes: Larry Warford whiffing. Part of a rough run blocking day for him

You’re on Day 3 of stewing over the Lions losing a game they should have won. You’ve already blamed penalties and Jim Schwartz and Willie Young and Reggie Bush and impatient handoffs and referees and Brandon Pettigrew and David Akers and even Rod Marinelli for old times sake. You’re searching for another victim.

It better not be the offensive line.

Sure, there were problems. The run game wasn’t effective. Larry Warford took a step backwards. They gave up their first sack of the season. But overall, the o-line has done one hell of a job through two games.

According to Pro Football Focus, the line has given Matt Stafford more time than any quarterback in the league, as he’s faced pressure on a league-low 22.9 percent of drop backs.

He saw pressured seven times on 37 drop backs against the Cardinals, one less than in Week 1. The effectiveness isn’t solely because of the offensive line. Tight ends chip edge rushers. Running backs pick up blitzers. Stafford does a good job of getting the ball out early, especially on blitzes, which the Cardinals did often. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan calls a lot of quick-hit passes that are completed before the pass rush has time to develop. But still, for an area that was one of the two biggest question marks for the Lions coming into the season (cornerback being the other), the Lions should be happier than Dikembe Mutombo at a block party with the performance.

Leading the way against Arizona was center Dominic Raiola. He was Pro Football Focus’ highest rated player in the game, with a +4.5 rating and earned an enthusiastic review from from former NFL Scout Russ Bollinger after he was perfect as can be in pass protection and opened a number of holes in the running game. Raiola’s biggest block came when destroyed his man to give Joique Bell the field he needed for a 21-yard run in the second quarter. The play accounted for more than 40 percent of the Lions’ total rushing yards.

Next to Raiola, left guard Rob Sims continued to be Rob Sims: nothing great, but nothing that was poke-your-eyes-out bad.

Technically you could say Sims was responsible for the sack allowed because it was ultimately his man who got to Stafford, but he had a Cardinals defensive lineman fall into his leg, which pinned him. The allowed sack was just bad luck.

To round out the left side, Riley Reiff had another solid game. He gave up one QB pressure and made some mistakes in the run game, but he’s got the hardest job on the line. The questions about whether he could handle the switch over to left side have been answered. For now.

Larry Warford, who ranked ahead of Reiff last week, struggled. Just when I go and talk about how dominant Warford is in the run game, how it looks like he’s taking a Flintstones car and running over defensive linemen with it, he makes more mistakes in that aspect than any other person on the the line. He whiffed on a block in one play (shown above) and got beat off the snap on another, making him the sole reason for a two-yard loss. Warford was solid in the pass game, though, just like everybody else.

Right tackle Corey Hilliard had a better game than his relief appearance against the Vikings, but he’s still overmatched. Subbing in for the injured Jason Fox, Hillard did a great job on the second play of the game sealing off his man and allowing Reggie Bush to run for six yards. It was all average to below average after that.

Run game breakdown

The Lions had 20 rushing attempts against the Cardinals, but one was a Matt Stafford scramble and the other was a fumbled hand off, leaving us with 18 ‘true’ rushing attempts.

Lions line: LT Riley Reiff, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola, RG Larry Warford, LT Corey Hilliard

Lions line: LT Riley Reiff, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola, RG Larry Warford, RT Corey Hilliard

The distribution was evenly spread. Obviously, the production was not. Neither was the situation. Warford’s bruising against the Vikings must’ve made an impression. Seven of the first nine run plays the Lions called were to the right. The lack of production seemed to scare them off, though.After those plays, the Lions ran to the right just once the rest of the game. That’s from the middle of the second quarter on. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the Lions to trust in running the ball behind Warford and Hilliard again.

Rodney Austin’s chances of cracking the lineup: Almost non-existent. The Lions aren’t looking for replacements for Raiola or Sims and they’ll let Warford take his lumps as they try to develop him, especially after the potential he showed in Week 1.

The Week 2 offensive lineman rankings:

  1. Dominic Raiola
  2. Rob Sims
  3. Riley Reiff
  4. Corey Hilliard
  5. Larry Warford
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