A Detroit Lions line that stood together for years has been ripped apart. And I could not be more thrilled!
Lions management has said since post-Barry era how much it would love to see a great run game again in the D. Well to do this one must attain talent on the line! This never clicked with the front office until this offseason when iron man Jeff Backus retired forcing Mayhew’s hand in building a new wall for number 1 pick Matthew Stafford.
Dominc Raiola (6-foot-1, 295 pounds) is still here? Really? The 34-year-old captain is the last of the old and athletically-challenged Lion linemen remaining. There are a couple positives in keeping the chirpy vet. Mainly he allowed the team to focus on addressing other needs across the field. Another He has played in blue and silver since 2002. He knows the culture and desperately wants to change it. Raiola may just have another mediocre season in him yet!
C Grade- C+
Rob Sims (6-foot-3, 312 pounds) is the one long-time starter who has consistently been a plus starter for the Leos. The eight-year veteran should once again be an all-around solid guard. Don’t hate on this Buckeye, the former left tackle turned left guard is the one guy on this line every fan should feel more than comfortable with. At 29-years-old Sims still still has a few good years left in him.
LG Grade: B
Larry Warford (6-foot-3, 332 pounds) was an absolute super-steal in this year’s NFL draft. He is the road-grading mauler that the Lions have been pining for. At 332 pounds Warford mixes great power with nice mobility. At Kentucky he faced the greatest of competition in the SEC and simply dominated.
Most mock drafts I had seen wrote in Warford near the top of the 2nd round. For him to fall to the 65th pick made my mouth water, and if I were Detroit’s general manager I would have picked none other than this fine speciman. Warford should make an impact immediately especially in the run game. Look for more holes and competency coming from the right guard position. At the very least I can guarantee that his man will be a significant upgrade from former guard Stephen “Poop” Peterman.
RG Grade: B
Riley Reiff (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) was drafted to be the team’s future left tackle and now he is just that. The unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection has been criticized for having shorter arms than an average tackle. I say that is terrible news, but can he play? This Iowa product is just another fine offensive lineman to come out of Kirk Ferentz’s system. Look no further than Green Bay tackle Bryan Bulaga to find coach Ferentz’s technique teachings paying off in the NFL. Bulaga too dropped in the NFL draft because of the short arms bit, but much to his tape measurer’s chagrin he has become the Packers’ top offensive lineman. I project the same type of production from Reiff.
LT Grade- C+
Jason Fox (6-foot-6, 314 pounds) actually developed through the Detroit Lions’ system! The Lions took a player selected in a lower round and slowly but surely developed him into being a starter. He definitely has good size for as a prototypical right tackle with excellent arm length, but having only played in five NFL games and starting none it is hard to tell how bright or bad he could be. I guess all fans can do is trust in Lions’ management. Aha. It is tough I know, but if Detroit was truly worried about their tackle situation they would have made Gosder Cherilus a higher priority or addressed the need through another free agent. Believe in the Schwartz!
RT Grade- C-
Corey Hilliard (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) held his own when needed two seasons ago. He is a solid reserve that will compete with Fox at right tackle. At 28-years-old he only has five career starts coming into this season, but when given time he does not make any glaring mistakes. Again, the fact that the Lions did not sign a veteran replacement for Cherilus is a testament to the faith they have in Fox and Hilliard.
LaAdrian Waddle (6-foot-6. 330 pounds) could be a diamond in the rough. He has great size with excellent foot quickness, but his technique is raw. As preseason wore on Waddle showed promise, and with some more work he could be dynamite. The guy could have easily been drafted in the upper half opf this year’s draft, but fell off the map likely due to Texas Tech’s odd offensive scheme in which the offensive linemen would rarely line up with a hand in the ground. The Lions have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain from the monstrous, undrafted rookie.
Overall Grade: C+
The offensive line is going through a youth movement that could set them up very nicely in the near future. They do not have any studs but if they can coexist quickly the individuals have enough talent to make this a middle-of-the-pack line.
Unlike the previous line that could only pass-block, the addition of Larry Warford will bring nastiness to the running game.