The Detroit Lions offensive line has been their key to success as of late. Over the last few weeks, Matthew Stafford has had more time in the pocket—and with it, he has been an assassin.
The narrative surrounding the Lions is that with Taylor Decker and Corey Robinson back on the roster, things will almost certainly improve down the stretch. While that’s likely true, the Lions are already getting a big boost from one of their players that has been there all year.
Graham Glasgow has been playing his best professional football out of the bye week. Pro Football Focus’ Brett Whitefield explained in his weekly press release to the media after the Browns game:
Graham Glasgow's solid play extends for yet another week as he put up a 77.7 game grade and was the Lions highest graded offensive lineman. He was near perfect in pass protection not allowing a single pressure on 32 pass block snaps. Glasgow has completely turned around a poor season and now ranks in the top-20 among guards on the season with a grade of 76.2.
But numbers are just numbers. Let’s crack open the tape and see what this transformation into a top-20 guard looks like.
As mentioned above, the Lions’ offense lives and dies with pass protection. According to PFF, Glasgow was perfect in this aspect of the game and the film agrees.
The Browns, per usual, are sending extra men to pass rush. The pre-snap alignment has Glasgow at a huge disadvantage, having to make up several feet to even get in position to block Cleveland’s nose tackle, Trevon Coley.
Lucky for Detroit, Glasgow is an extremely athletic player:
Note those impressive speed times. Glasgow is in the 80th percentile among guards in his 40-times, his 3-cone and just outside for his shuttle time. So how does that translate on game day? Check it out:
Glasgow’s lateral movement is extremely quick and gets him in the proper position. If you want to see what it looks like when you don’t do your job properly, check out Brian Mihalik right next to him. Granted, Mihalik had a much tougher assignment against the No. 1 pick in the draft, but still, Glasgow’s quickness is a huge asset to this offensive line.
But Glasgow also has some strength. Several times in this game, he had to deal with Myles Garret on his own, and that man has quite the bullrush. Glasgow knew how to absorb and neutralize him:
Glasgow stops Garrett in his tracks, and although he loses him inside for a second, that actually opens up a nice escape lane for Matthew Stafford, which he uses to find Dwayne Washington for the biggest third down pickup of the game. The Lions would score the go-ahead touchdown just three plays later.
In our first example, we noted how the Lions put Glasgow in challenging situations, trusting that his quickness would compensate. The Lions did the same in the running game, and Glasgow speed once again prevailed.
Glasgow blasts out of his stance and somehow gets outside leverage on the defensive tackle, with a little help from Travis Swanson. This time, Mihalik does the same, and with a minor hold from Darren Fells, Ameer Abdullah has the edge and turns it into 19 yards.
But I’ve saved the best for last. Detroit has been desperate for red zone blocking all year. The running game has been awful once Detroit gets inside their opponent’s 10-yard line, but Glasgow provided a huge glimmer of hope on Sunday. This play is an absolute masterpiece from Glasgow:
Graham Glasgow essentially blocked 3 players on Abdullah's 8-yd TD run.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 13, 2017
He's been steadily improving every week: pic.twitter.com/tZlZ7oIhUe
Defender No. 1: Immediately tossed aside by Glasgow. Out of play.
Defender No. 2: Pushed aside by Glasgow to help give Swanson inside leverage
Defender No. 3: Pushed backwards to give Ameer Abdullah just enough space to cross the goal line.
In less than four seconds, Glasgow eliminates three different defenders from the play.
If Detroit can consistently get this kind of play from Glasgow, along with a Taylor Decker without the rust, the left side of this offensive line has the potential to be as strong as the right. And that should get Lions fans extremely excited for the future.