Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Lions will get better if Riley Reiff and Larry Warford do

A saying as old as football itself is that an offensive line is only as strong as its weakest link.
It's undeniably true. But you also need exceptionally strong links to build the chain. As such, this is the season the Lions need tackle Riley Reiff and guard Larry Warford to step forward.
Larry Warford
Maybe it was a new offensive system, which send out an extra receiver and subsequently put more pressure on the offensive line to keep out defenders one-on-one, but the Lions' QB Matthew Stafford was sacked nearly double the number of times (45) in 2014 as he was in 2013 (23). The Lions rushing attack was terrible. They averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and 89 yards per game in '14. That was down from 4.0 yards per carry and 112 yard per game in '13.
Riley Reiff
Warford played at Pro Bowl level as a rookie third-round draft pick in 2013. He wasn't nearly as effective in 2014, although he was fighting through knee injuries. Reiff, the Lions' first-round draft pick in 2102, who played very well during his first season  as a starter at left tackle in '13, was visibly beaten for sacks last season, including on the play that essentially ended the Lions' season vs. Dallas in the playoffs.
Both these players are immensely talented. Each took a step back instead of the anticipated step forward last season. The Lions will have to fill holes on their offensive line, especially now that they have cut Rodney Austin this week. But as the off-season program begins, there are a number of places the Lions need year-to-year improvement. None is more important than with Reiff and Warford on the offensive line.


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