Film shows Lions offensive linemen should be proud

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The success of the overhauled Lions offensive line will be a key determinant in how the team does. And in Week 1, the unit had mixed reviews from the players.

The Lions allowed untouched rushers on a couple costly plays, but after looking at the film, they believe those issues are correctable. And for the most part, the players were proud of how the line performed in the loss to the Chargers.

“When we were on guys, we were on them as good as we’ve been on in a long time,” quarterback Matthew Stafford. “It was stout pocket. I had a bunch of chances to step up and make throws, and that’s something that’s going to be big for us all year. If we can continue to do that, this offense has great potential.”

The Lions averaged 4.3 yards rushing and allowed two sacks, though with 47 snaps, the sacks aren’t as impressive. Still, considering this was the second game Stafford played without longtime center Dominic Raiola, there were few errors overall.

The free rushers were the biggest issue.

Stafford said one of those plays, a sack by rookie linebacker Kyle Emanuel, was a miscommunication. On the play, left tackle Riley Reiff and left guard Laken Tomlinson blocked the same guy while Emanuel was untouched from the edge.

The second play was when Stafford suffered his right arm injury on a hit from linebacker Melvin Ingram and threw an interception in the third quarter. The Chargers had six players at the line, with Ingram to the side. He ran by the right side of the line untouched as one of four rushers.

“They had shown a certain blitz that we went for the protection for,” Stafford said. “That’s one of the disadvantages of playing on the road, you don’t get to control the cadence as much and you see them unfold late. I was just trying to get it out quick, and Ingram was there in a heartbeat.”

Stafford is the one making the calls, but center Travis Swanson said he has to relay them to the linemen. With the snaps, Swanson did mostly well, but his first one of the second half, out of the shotgun, arrived a little too early, though Stafford caught it and threw to running back Ameer Abdullah for 36 yards.

“There were a couple of heaters, but we handled them,” Stafford said.

To avoid any mishaps, Swanson said he’ll have to calm down and admitted adrenaline contributed to some of the hot snaps. Stafford, meanwhile, said working with Swanson is “almost second nature” after the 2014 third-round pick was the main guy snapping to him all offseason.

“I feel great with him in there,” Stafford said.

In addition to Swanson taking over at center, where he played one game last season, Tomlinson was at left guard and Manny Ramirez at right guard. Reiff is in his third season while Lucas played several games at right tackle last year, and the Lions are still waiting for Larry Warford, their top right guard, and LaAdrian Waddle, their best right tackle, to be 100 percent healthy.

Reiff said the unit will study film to make corrections Sunday.

“We’ve just got to get better,” he said.