clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Will the Lions benefit from moving Reiff to RT?

The Detroit Lions have had constant struggles all across the offensive line this year. Will moving Reiff to the right side generate any improvements?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest misconceptions in football is the assumption that if a player is struggling at one position, moving him to another position will suddenly fix a problem. There are plenty of cases where this has worked, but for every successful transition, there are several cases that have failed. Every position across the offensive line is different and a move doesn't make sense for everyone. For instance, if an offensive tackle has pillows for hands, then he's going to have a weak punch as a guard too, therefore, it's unlikely that a move inside will suddenly make them a better player.

Riley Reiff has been at the center of this discussion ever since he was drafted in 2012. Many believed he was better suited at guard or on the right side. Others felt that he should stay put at left tackle and develop behind his mentor, Jeff Backus. Despite the constant teasing of Reiff possibly changing positions, the Lions have stuck to their guns and Reiff now has 39 career starts at LT.

To take a closer look at Reiff's performance at left tackle, I created a table consisting of Pro Football Focus' grades for Reiff -- not including his rookie season, considering he only lined up at LT for about a game and a half that year.

Snaps Overall Pass Block Run Block Penalty QB Sacks QB Hits QB Hurries
2013 1060 -0.3 -9.5 8.2 0.5 7 7 31
2014 1027 2.8 -2.7 2.2 3.3 3 5 31
2015 549 0.5 -7.1 7.8 0.3 4 4 24
Total 2636 3.0 -19.3 18.2 4.1 14 16 86

I know what some of you are thinking. PFF isn't perfect, but I think their grades are fairly accurate with Reiff. I mean, from what I've seen, he tends to struggle in pass protection, while doing a pretty decent job as a run blocker.

Would Reiff have more success on the right side?

It's entirely possible that Reiff could perform better on the right side, but I find it hard to believe that a position change will cast him an epiphany of how to become a solid pass protector. Let's face it, more and more teams are pitting their top pass rushers up against weaker RTs and creating tons of pressure because of it.

Using PFF's PRP (Pass Rushing Productivity) and total pressures statistics, I decided to take a look at how much pressure is coming from the left side (vs. RTs) compared to the right side (vs. LTs). When looking at the top-10 pass rushing 4-3 DEs of 2015, I added up 324 total pressures to date. 200 of those have come from the left side (61.7%). Some of these names rushing from the left side are: Cam Jordan (NO), Michael Bennett (SEA), Carlos Dunlap (CIN), Cliff Avril (SEA), Brian Robison (MIN), Mario Williams (BUF).

As you'll notice, six of the top-10 pass-rushing 4-3 DEs rush from the left side. Four of those names lie in the NFC and one sits right in the NFC North. That's not even including 3-4 OLBs yet. Over the past two years, 64.9 percent of total pressures from top-10 pass-rushing 3-4 OLBs have come from the left side.

If Reiff does indeed move to RT, he'll have to face guys like Brian Robison (MIN), Pernell McPhee (CHI) and Julius Peppers (GB) six times a year. McPhee currently has the highest PRP (17.1) among all 3-4 OLBs and is tied with Von Miller for the most total pressures (45).

One thing I do know. Should the Lions draft an elite offensive tackle prospect in the early rounds, they will have a much easier time choosing between said rookie and Riley Reiff for the starting RT job, rather than continuing to recycle between UDFAs LaAdrian Waddle and Cornelius Lucas.

NEW: Join Pride of Detroit Direct

Jeremy Reisman will drop into your inbox twice a week to provide exclusive, in-depth reporting and insights from Ford Field. Subscribe to go deeper into Lions fandom, and join us on our path to win the Super Bowl.