Allen Park — Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the primary focus during the team’s bye week is to get back to health.
But not far behind on the to-do list is using the extra time to get the offensive line’s act together.
The unit was a mess in Sunday’s 52-38 loss to the Saints due to a rash of injuries that compounded its disastrous performance, which featured five sacks and an alarming rate of hits on an already banged-up Matthew Stafford.
Over the last three games, the Lions have surrendered 17 of their league-high 23 sacks. Stafford is on pace to be sacked 61 times this season.
No quarterback has been sacked 60-plus times in a single season since Jon Kitna was sacked 63 times in 2006 with the Lions, according to ProFootballReference.com. Before Kitna, that mark was hit only seven other times by Houston’s David Carr (76 in 2002, 68 in 2005), Philadelphia’s Randall Cunningham (72 in 1986, 60 in 1992), Carolina’s Steve Beuerlein (62, 2000), New York Jets’ Ken O’Brien (62, 1985) and St. Louis Cardinals’ Neil Lomax (61, 1985).
And while Detroit’s offensive line isn’t entirely responsible for that woeful number, it shoulders plenty of the blame, and it’s no secret it must do a better job up front.
“I think that most of the time it comes down to just playing your technique and making sure that you don’t get bored doing the right thing over and over and over again,” left guard Graham Glasgow said Monday. “It takes a lot of self-discipline and in some ways some grit.
“I think that there’s a lot of factors that contribute to poor play, but I think that when you look at sacks, when you look at bad plays, more times than not it comes down to a breakdown in technique and the defense exploiting it.”
On Sunday, the Saints took advantage of the Lions’ depleted line, which saw only Glasgow and center Travis Swanson on the field for every offensive play. Tackles Rick Wagner and Greg Robinson both missed time with ankle injuries and guard T.J. Lang was a late scratch with a back injury.
As a result, the Lions had to use all seven of their active linemen and each one played at least 26 snaps, but none of the backups — tackles Emmett Cleary and Brian Mihalik and guard Tim Lelito — fared too well.
While the brief break will help some of the dinged-up linemen recuperate, Glasgow said he’s going to focus on dissecting his previous performances and find out ways he can improve.
“I know that I’m going to use the bye week to go back and look over all the games and make sure that I can learn from all the things that have happened that have gotten me in trouble,” Glasgow said. “I think that a lot of the guys around here probably have the same mentality of learning from your mistakes and just trying to make sure you don’t get bit by the same dog going to school every day.”
The Lions’ offensive line could also receive a boon if left tackle Taylor Decker is able to return to practice and possibly play in the team’s Oct. 29 home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Glasgow said Decker, who is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list, has become more and more antsy with each passing week as he has rehabbed and worked his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.
“I think it’d be fantastic. I think that whenever you get a great player like Decker back that it’ll help and I think that he’ll be ready to play,” Glasgow said. “I think when he comes back, he’ll be good on his assignments and good on everything that made him a good player last year.”
With Decker’s return still up the air, though, Glasgow said protecting Stafford is always the top priority regardless of who is playing, and it’s a job he and the rest of the offensive linemen take seriously.
And a few extra days off could help the line mentally and physically refocus for the task at hand.
“I think that it’ll give some of the guys — and myself included — you can get a little bit of time off and be able to relax and get your mind off football,” Glasgow said. “It re-energizes you to come back and want to work harder.”