Coming into the season, it looked like the Lions had patched one of their biggest holes — the offensive line — with the equivalent of duct tape, bubble gum and Gorilla Glue. They took their second-year guy who projected to be a right tackle in the NFL and moved him to left, then took a rookie drafted in the third round and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup. Add a backup right tackle after 15 snaps and that tape began to peel and that glue begin to crack before the Lions hit rough water.
Yet, through two games everyone stayed dry. On the third, the structure finally relented. But it wasn’t the bubble gum. It was a new hole, on that came sprang in the middle of that that steel reinforced hull.
The hole isn’t that big, at least not yet. The Lions have allowed just two sacks through three games, the lowest in the league, and 15 QB hits, tied for 14th best.
But there were problems on Sunday. The two best lineman for the Lions through the first two games were the the two worst against the Redskins. Rob Sims wasn’t Rob Sims. He destroyed a linebacker, then followed it with multiple plays that were poke-your-eye-out bad: giving up a QB hits, getting pushed into running backs, allowing defensive linemen to split double teams to make tackles for loss.
And Dominic Raiola was worse. He stood alongside Sims as Redskins defensive lineman Barry Coefield turned both of them sideways on one play. Raiola snapped a ball before Stafford was ready. He got beat clean to allow Stafford to get clobbered. When the Lions needed a first down to salt the game, Raiola got blown up and allowed a one-yard loss.
Coefield and Stephen Bowen, the two guys who lined up against Raiola and Sims for most of the day, were some Pro Football Focus’ best performers. Sims got the better of Bowen just one time all game according to the site. Coefield had four QB pressures and two run stops.
Corey Hilliard barely faired better, although it’s not really fair to expect him to shut down Ryan Kerrigan consistently. Hilliard is Hilliard. Kerrigan is a returning Pro Bowler.
It was more of an inconsistent day for Hilliard than a straight-up failure. He had a couple of play-changing blocks and seals in the rushing game. It’s just that he had linemen run right by him — or through him — a few more times.
The same was true for left tackle Riley Reiff, although his good play-to-bad play ratio was about even. His most egregarious mistakes: getting beat on an inside move and recording a negative push on the 4th-and-1 play (as shown above). He biggest get-your-shine-on play: absolutely murdering a guy on a four-yard rush to the left side early in the game. It didn’t have a huge impact, but it was awesome.
Then there’s Larry Warford. The Rook wasn’t as dominant as he was against the Vikings, but it was a bounce-back day after some, ahem, struggles against the Cardinals. He got knocked on his ass a couple times, but he also murdered a blitzing linebacker and showed how good he is in the run game again. In an off day for the Lions offensive line, he took top billing. Which means he should get the championship belt.
Rushing game breakdown
No need for adjustments. The Lions ran 23 times for 63 yards on Sunday.
The relatively even split is to be expected. As for the production difference: Hilliard and Warford has good games relative to their counterparts, which could account for the more rushing yards to the right side.
It’s a bit odd how much more successful they were there running up the middle compared to everywhere else when Dominic Raiola had an awful day. Part of it might have to do with Joique Bell. He’s more of a straight-ahead runner than Reggie Bush and can break a few more tackles through strictly power than Bush can. The Lions ran a lot of plays that had the offensive line crashing one way or another, so while Bell was running straight ahead, it oftentimes wasn’t directly behind Raiola. Reiff or Hilliard would already have the pile moving horizontally one way or the other.
Offensive lineman Week 3 Rankings:
- Larry Warford
- Riley Reiff
- Corey Hilliard
- Rob Sims
- Dominic Raiola