Seems ridiculous doesn't it? Almost every Lion fan has blamed the O-line or a member of it for a number of things. NFL fans and pundits in and outside of Detroit start their evaluation of the Lions with "If Stafford remains upright" or "If the O-line can protect Stafford..." During the pre-draft, everyone had the Lions picking tackles (offense) because Detroit needs to keep Stafford healthy. They just couldn't decide which tackle Detroit would pick. It is Detroit's glaring need. Guess what they were all wrong!
Doesn't surprise me that "analysts" outside of Detroit were wrong. Detroit was so insignificant to most of them that they did their research by watching "Sportcenter". They only knew a few things about the Lions. Detroit has Calvin Johnson, they drafted Ndamukong Suh , Jim Schwartz was on Kyle Vanden Bosch's doorstep and Mathew Stafford was injured multiple times in two years. They made their assessments form there.
The fans of Detroit have also passed their judgment on the O-line, but there goggles were colored by a hatred for Jeff Backus and some spill over to Dominic Raiola. I think these opinions were defense mechanisms for the crushing seasons they faced for so long. Like a jilted lover burning her ex's football jersey to move on, Lions fans couldn't stand seeing familiar faces from the 0-16 team.
The TRUTH however is that the O-Line, mainly because of Raiola and Backus, have been the strongest squad on the team for the past year and it looks like they have improved. Yeah, yeah, yeah the D-line is obviously good but guess what, The O-Line has been just as good.
One of Detorit highest rankings last year was potection from sacks. 7th in the league. Interestingly enough causing sacks was our other strength and was similarly ranked. The difference is the run game on both sides. Whereas the Lions O-line weren't road graters, they weren't as bad as the D-line stopping the run. I know you can argue that the opposition run yardage was because of linebackers and secondary, but you can also argue that Raiola and his smaller stature has helped the pass game stats drastically. By this I mean his ability to get out in front of screens. Screens inflated our pass game numbers a great deal last year. If you haven't noticed we run a lot of them-- RB screens, TE screens, WR screens,and bubble screens. Scott Linehan loves screens and so do I. When properly performed they are low risk chunk plays that tire out D-lineman.
During preseason I looked up weekly team stats on NFL.com often and Detroit's O-Line was #1 all the way through preseason. After game one versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers I see that Detroit's Offensive line is again ranked number one. We are not ranked #1 in anything else, and we haven't as long as I can remember. So the O-line must be pretty good. Later I came across this article:
My Buddy @Dustin_aka_D likes this ranking because it's more "scientific" than NFL.com rankings. I don't know whether it is or isn't, but it's the same result. I think one is passing and running stats combined where the other is just pass protection but both formulas come up with answers I like. Detroit's O-line is #1! I hope we can maintain that ranking after the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday!
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