FanPost

Lions Don't Need to Draft an OT

I posted this over at my blog too, but I thought I would share it with you guys as I'm pretty sure most of you have heard the stupid argument at least once over this offseason:


It seems like every other mock I read, professional or amateur, has the Lions taking an offensive tackle. The reason is more often than not stating something like, “the Lions need to protect their franchise quarterback” or “they need to keep Matthew Stafford upright”.  Of course, anyone that has watched this team through the last two years knows that’s not true. Matthew Stafford isn’t injured because the Lions couldn’t protect him. He is injured because of a slew of bad luck more than anything.

Still, I realize people in the football blogosphere will keep saying such things no matter what, and there aren’t really any blog posts or articles properly defending the Lions offensive line, so I decided I am going to attempt to write one of those posts. You are more than welcome to tell me why I’m wrong. In fact, please tell me if I’m wrong or if I have missed anything.

To me, its really tough to judge an offensive line by statistics as there aren’t any real ones that we can use as a universal indicator of how good a certain offensive line is. We can take a look at the number of sacks given up by a line, but is that really the best indicator? Take, for example, the 2003 season when the Lions offensive line gave up less sacks than the Indianapolis Colts offensive line. Does that mean the Lions offensive line was better than Indy’s? Most likely not, especially when you consider that offensive line was anchored by household names like Tarik Glenn and a young Jeff Saturday while the Lions had the same old Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola.

It’s true: the Lions were a very good pass blocking line in ’03 according to statistics…best in the NFL according to statistics with just 11 sacks given up during the season, while the Colts had 19. However, the Lions didn’t give so few sacks because they were an elite offensive line. Rather, it was because Joey Harington never hung onto the ball long enough for the defensive ends to get to him…or long enough for his receivers to complete their routes for that matter.

The quality of the opponents the two teams played factored into it too. The Lions played only one team in top five in sacks that season: the St. Louis Rams, while they played three games against teams in the bottom five in sacks. The rest were middle of the pack at best. In short, the Lions didn’t really face quality pass rushing opponents other than a few times during that season.

The Colts? They didn’t have the toughest schedule either, but they played significantly better pass rushing teams compared to the Lions. Out of the top ten sacking teams, the Colts played four of them while only playing one team in bottom five. So, which line would you rather have? The one that gave up more sacks against better opponents or the one dominated lower class talent? I would choose the one that held their own against the best, and I’m sure many of you would too.

The reason the Detroit Lions offensive line is perfectly fine is because they held their own against some of the best defensive lines and some of the best individual pass rushers the league has to offer. Just take a look below:

Player

Against Lions

On Season

NFL Rank

Week One: @ Bears

Julius Peppers*

1

8

t27th

Israel Idonije

0

8

t27th

Week Two: vs. Eagles

Trent Cole

0

10

t17th

Week Three: @ Vikings

Jared Allen

0

11

t10th

Week Four: @ Packers

Clay Matthews*

1

14

t3rd

Cullen Jenkins

1

7

t31st

BJ Raji

1

7

t31st

Week Five: vs. Rams

James Hall

0

11

t10th

Chris Long

0

9

t22nd

Week Six: @ Giants

Osi Umenyiora

2

12

t7th

Justin Tuck*

0

12

t7th

Week Eight: `vs. Redskins

Brian Orakpo*

0

9

t22nd

Week Nine: vs. Jets

N/A

Week Ten: @ Bills

N/A

Week Eleven: @ Cowboys

DeMarcus* Ware

0.5

16

1st

Week Twelve: vs. Patriots

N/A

Week Thirteen: vs. Bears

Julius Peppers*

1

8

t27th

Israel Idonije

0

8

t27th

Week Fourteen: vs. Packers

Clay Matthews*

1

14

t3rd

Cullen Jenkins

1

7

t31st

BJ Raji

1

7

t31st

Week Fifteen:@ Buccaneers

N/A

Week Sixteen: @ Dolphins

Cameron* Wake

0

14

t3rd

Week Seventeen: vs. Vikings

Jared Allen

0.5

11

t10th

* Denotes Pro Bowler

 

As you can see, the Lions played some of pretty damn good players. They played fourteen out of the top 38 players in terms of sacks numbers, two of the top five, and six out of the top ten. In addition, they played six Pro Bowl pass rusher, two of them twice in Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. I can’t speak for other teams, but I am pretty sure not many other teams faced that type of talent on a weekly basis. What’s even better is that they only managed to give up 26 sacks (6th in the league) after facing the above mentioned guys.

That tells me that the Lions are perfectly fine in the short run at the tackle positions and that we don’t need to take a tackle to save Matthew Stafford. Think of it this way: would either Tyron Smith, Nate Solder or Anthony Costanzo start over Backus or even Gos? I don’t think so. While those players are great talents, I think its safe to say that they are project players at this point. The Lions may draft an offensive tackle, but I can tell you it won’t be so that they can instantly upgrade the tackle position, but rather to build for the future.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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