Lions keeping it simple to develop rookies Ragnow, Crosby

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News

Allen Park — The NFL learning curve for rookies is a steep one, so the Lions are keeping it simple for draft picks Frank Ragnow and Tyrell Crosby.

One thing, every day.

Lions rookie Frank Ragnow is rated as the 12th-best NFL guard as a run blocker, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I think there’s something about the fundamentals and the approach for us to be able to say each day that we go out there to have one thing to focus on,” offensive line coach Jeff Davidson said Tuesday. “Knowing that you’re never going to perfect it, but it you have one thing you’re trying to focus on certainly you get that done that day. That’s the way I think it works best for individual growth.”

Ragnow, the team’s first-round pick at No. 20 overall, has shown growth at offensive guard, allowing two pass rush pressures over the last three games after 13 in the first two games.

Overall, the former Arkansas center is rated as the 12th-best NFL guard as a run blocker, according to Pro Football Focus.

Ragnow hasn’t graduated every practice from the daily focus, but he has more times than not, Davidson said.

More: Lions have time to figure out how to replace Jamal Agnew

Davidson, who spent last season as Denver’s offensive line coach, has had success working with rookies in the past.

Garett Bolles started all 16 games at left tackles for the Broncos last season as a rookie first-round pick. During his successful run as Minnesota offensive line coach from 2011-15, Davidson inserted rookie Matt Kalil into the left tackle slot in 2012. Kalil started every game of Davidson’s last four seasons, as Adrian Peterson ran roughshod on the league every season except 2014, when the Vikings averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per carry with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon filling in for the suspended Adrian Peterson

This season, Ragnow has played in all 336 offensive snaps, as has the players on both sides of him, left tackle Taylor Decker and center Graham Glasgow.

Meanwhile, the health of the offensive line — right tackle Rick Wagner also has played every down — has meant Crosby has not had to learn on-the-job on Sundays.

While the first five selections of this year’s Lions draft have been asked to contribute significantly, Crosby has not played a snap despite being active for the Lions first five games.

The fifth-round pick out of Oregon is ready to step in at tackle if need be, Davidson said.

“I think he’s going about business the right way, prepping himself to be ready to go on a moment’s notice; I certainly have no reason to believe that he’s not ready to do that,” Davidson said. “That’s part of the training for him. It ends up being film training, studying the opponent, understanding exactly what he’s going to have to do when he is asked to step into that role.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.